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Chemical element
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From Mercury.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈməː.kjʊ.ɹi/
  • (US) enPR: mûr'kūrē, IPA(key): /ˈmɝ.kjə.ɹi/, /ˈmɝ.k(ə).ɹi/
  • (file)


mercury (countable and uncountable, plural mercuries)

  1. A metal. ## A silvery-colored, toxic, metallic chemical element, liquid at room temperature, with atomic number 80 and symbol Hg. [from 14th c.]
    1. Synonyms: (in alchemy) azoth, (in medical and sometimes chemical use) hydrargyrum, (not in technical use) quicksilver
    2. (sciences, historical) One of the elemental principles formerly thought to be present in all metals. [from 15th c.]
    3. (with definite article) Ambient pressure or temperature (from the use of mercury in barometers and thermometers). [from 17th c.]
      The mercury there has averaged 37.6°C, 2.3°C above the February norm.
      • 2022 June 16, Ashifa Kassam, “‘They’re being cooked’: baby swifts die leaving nests as heatwave hits Spain”, in The Guardian[1]:
        As the mercury climbed in recent days – hovering at about 42C in both Seville and Córdoba – volunteers in both cities started to assemble around swift colonies, gathering up as many of the dehydrated and undernourished chicks they could find.
    4. (obsolete) Liveliness, volatility. [17th-18th c.]
      • 1724, [Gilbert] Burnet, [Gilbert Burnet Jr.], editor, Bishop Burnet’s History of His Own Time. [], volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: [] Thomas Ward [], OCLC 863504080:
        He was so full of mercury that he could not fix long in any friendship, or to any design.
  2. Any of several types of plant.
    1. An annual plant, annual mercury (Mercurialis annua), formerly grown for its medicinal properties; French mercury, herb mercury. [from 14th c.]
      Synonym: mercurial
      • 1653, Nicholas Culpeper, The English Physician Enlarged, Folio Society 2007, p. 188:
        Towards the tops of the stalks and branches come forth at every joint in the male Mercury two small round green heads, standing together upon a short footstalk, which growing ripe are the seeds, not having any flower.
    2. Any plant of any species of the genus and the genus Mercurialis.
    3. A similar edible plant (Blitum bonus-henricus), otherwise known as English mercury or allgood. [from 15th c.]
    4. (US, regional) The poison oak or poison ivy. [from 18th c.]

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Further reading[edit]

  • David Barthelmy (1997–2022), “Mercury”, in Webmineral Mineralogy Database.
  • mercury”, in[2], Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, 2000–2022.

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of mercurie