Cars & Driving


  • A flammable liquid used in dyes and as a solvent and cleaning fluid.


  • noun a simple aromatic hydrocarbon produced from coal tar that is very carcinogenic


  • acronymC6H6

Origin & History of “benzene”

The original name given to this hydrocarbon, by the German chemist Eilhardt Mitscherlich in 1833, was benzine. He based it on the term benzoic acid, a derivative of benzoin, the name of a resinous substance exuded by trees of the genus Styrax. This came ultimately from Arabic lubān-jāwī, literally ‘frankincense of Java’ (the trees grow in Southeast Asia). when the expression was borrowed into the romance languages, the initial lu- was apprehended as the definite article, and dropped (ironically, since in so many Arabic words which do contain the article al, it has been retained as part and parcel of the word – see (algebra)). This produced a variety of forms, including French benjoin, Portuguese beijoim, and Italian benzoi. English probably acquired the word mainly from French (a supposition supported by the folk-etymological alteration benjamin which was in common use in English from the end of the 16th century), but took the z from the Italian form.

Meanwhile, back with benzine, in the following year, 1834, the German chemist Justus von Liebig proposed the alternative name benzol; and finally, in the 1870s, the chemist A W Hofmann regularized the form to currently accepted chemical nomenclature as benzene.