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What does oxidizing strength mean?

Does it mean the strength of a oxidation agent that is needed to oxidize the reduction agent, or does it just mean the tendency of a substance to lose electrons (oxidate)?

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  • $\begingroup$ If X has a higher oxidising strength than Y, then X would probably be able to oxidise Y (even if X/Y are both oxidizing agents). $\endgroup$
    – t.c
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ See also Comparing Strengths of Oxidants and Reductants. $\endgroup$
    – Sparkler
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 3:01

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The strengths of oxidizing and reducing agents are indicated by their standard electrode potentials. Let's consider standard potentials of some redox couples:

$$ \begin{align} E^\circ(\ce{Li^+/Li}) &= \pu{-3.04 V} \\ E^\circ(\ce{K^+/K}) &= \pu{-2.92 V} \\ E^\circ(\ce{Cu^2+/Cu}) &= \pu{+0.34 V} \\ E^\circ(\ce{F_2/F^-}) &= \pu{+2.87 V} \end{align} $$

The values above are reduction potentials, so lithium at the top of the list has the most negative number, indicating that it is the strongest reducing agent. The strongest oxidizing agent is fluorine with the largest positive number for standard electrode potential.

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