There are a dozen definitions of the verb oxidize in various dictionaries. My question is whether the definition in the end of this post holds true. I have added the words in bold.

And if we think of oxidation as "electron theft", would the two pairs of three sentences match as to who's getting "robbed"?

Oxygen oxidizes Sodium. Sodium is oxidized by Oxygen. Sodium oxidizes (intransitive).

Oliver robs Sophie. Sophie is robbed by Oliver. Sophie robs.

"Undergo or cause to undergo a reaction in which electrons are lost to oxygen or another species"

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the definition is actually quite clear; the problem may be more likely to be solved on English Language Learners $\endgroup$ – Jan Nov 11 '17 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ Found this sort of unclear use in French chem slang too. Where the equivalent of oxidize may refer to what has been oxidized or to what indeed oxidizes a reducent species. $\endgroup$ – Alchimista Nov 11 '17 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ Why are you trying to learn chemistry from a dictionary? Anyway from the language point this is perfectly clear and also chemically correct. When I say "Fred made Joe hit Bill", you also know who is hurt, right? Don't let yourself be confused by the chemical verb. It's still english, not chemlish. $\endgroup$ – Karl Nov 11 '17 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Alchimista, exactly! When the dictionary definition says that to "oxidize" is to undergo a reaction where electrons are lost to another species, it doesn't say who's doing the losing. It could very well be oxygen that comes in contact with another species and does the losing. $\endgroup$ – Gelb Nov 11 '17 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl. The dictionary definion left out who's doing what. I was wondering if the definition would still be correct if I inserted the part in bold? If you say "Fred made Joe hit Bill" you've introduced three characters. I wish there were "charcters" in the dictinoary definition. $\endgroup$ – Gelb Nov 11 '17 at 12:40

In everyday language "oxidation" is used to describe a reaction with oxygen.

This definition, however, is not scientifically correct. The more correct definition would be "A reaction in which an atom loses an electron" or "A reaction in which the oxidation state of an atom increases".

This means that in a reaction between hydrogen and chloric gas, which results in HCl (hydrogen chloride) is also an oxidation, because the hydrogen in HCl has a partial positive charge it did not have before, which counts as "losing an electron". This means that an oxidation does not require oxygen to be involved.

You might consider looking up how to determine the oxidation state of an atom because it makes deciding if an oxidation takes place easier.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, GreenSmurf. So, the definition I suggested was correct. When oxidation occurs then electrons can be lost to oxygen, but they needn't be. So "lost to oxygen or another species" would we correct. $\endgroup$ – Gelb Nov 11 '17 at 12:30

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