According to the history section in Ethylene, it is written that:

the name ethylene was used in this sense as early as 1852

However, the earliest mention of it I could find was in 1859 (Wurtz, "Sur l'oxyde d'ethylene"; Comptus Rendus 48, p.101). I also found mentions of "ethylene" in 1862 (Wurtz, "[...]On oxide of ethylene, considered as a link between organic and mineral chemistry[...]"), and in 1878 (Frankland and Thorne, "[...]On the Luminosity of Benzol when burnt with non-luminous Combustible Gases[...]"). Can anyone find any earlier publications that mention "ethylene"?

  • $\begingroup$ I considered ethane, and got the fact that the prefix eth comes from ether. i.sstatic.net/1GbRO.png $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2017 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for responding, @PrittBalagopal. However, what I essentially want to know when the word "ethylene" was first used. This may have been unclear in my title; perhaps "etymology" is a slightly inaccurate word. $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2017 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, Merriam-Webster says first usage is 1849, but reference is not provided online. Have you checked the Oxford English Dictionary? It is not available free online, but is often the best source for first usages. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


According to the Oxford English Dictionary entry on "ethylene", the first English usage was in 1849 in the Chemical Gazette (alternate name Journal of Practical Chemistry), published in London. The specific citation is Vol. 7 p. 116 (Mar. 15, 1849). The sentence in which it is used is in an article by "A. Wurtz" titled "On a Series of Organic Alkalies Homologous with Ammonia.", and the relevant sentence reads "By adding to ammonia the elements of ethylene, $\ce{C4H4}$, ethylic ammonia, $\ce{C4H7N}$, is obtained."

The full text of the journal is available digitally via Google Books.


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