nitr(o)- Also nitri-. Also nitros(o)-.
Containing nitrogen, nitric acid, or nitrates.
[Latin nitrum, from Greek nitron, saltpetre.]
Nitrogen (Greek genes, -born) was so named because it is a component of nitre, an old name for saltpetre. The adjectives nitrous and nitric can generally refer to nitrogen, but in chemistry the former has a specific meaning of monovalent nitrogen (as in nitrous oxide, N2O), while the latter refers to nitrogen in higher combining states (as in nitric oxide, NO, or nitric acid, HNO3). Salts of nitrous acid are nitrites, those of nitric acid are nitrates. Nitriles are cyanides derived from alkanes, straight-chain hydrocarbons; nitrides are compounds of metals with nitrogen. Nitroso compounds contain the nitrosyl radical -NO, for example nitrosamines, compounds containing the group =NNO attached to two organic groups.
The ending nitro- occurs in the names of many organic compounds, usually indicating the presence of one or more nitro groups, -NO2, the introduction of which into a compound is nitration: nitrobenzene is a yellow oily liquid made by nitrating benzene; nitrocellulose is a highly flammable material made by treating cellulose with concentrated nitric acid, used to make explosives and celluloid. See also azo-.