AskDefine | Define zinc

The Collaborative Dictionary

Zinc \Zinc\ (z[i^][ng]k), n. [G. zink, probably akin to zinn tin: cf. F. zinc, from the German. Cf. Tin.] (Chem.) An abundant element of the magnesium-cadmium group, extracted principally from the minerals zinc blende, smithsonite, calamine, and franklinite, as an easily fusible bluish white metal, which is malleable, especially when heated. It is not easily oxidized in moist air, and hence is used for sheeting, coating galvanized iron, etc. It is used in making brass, britannia, and other alloys, and is also largely consumed in electric batteries. Symbol Zn. Atomic number
Atomic weight 65.38. [Formerly written also zink.] [1913 Webster] Butter of zinc (Old Chem.), zinc chloride, ZnCl2, a deliquescent white waxy or oily substance. Oxide of zinc. (Chem.) See Zinc oxide, below. Zinc amine (Chem.), a white amorphous substance, Zn(NH2)2, obtained by the action of ammonia on zinc ethyl; -- called also zinc amide. Zinc amyle (Chem.), a colorless, transparent liquid, composed of zinc and amyle, which, when exposed to the atmosphere, emits fumes, and absorbs oxygen with rapidity. Zinc blende [cf. G. zinkblende] (Min.), a native zinc sulphide. See Blende, n. (a) . Zinc bloom [cf. G. zinkblumen flowers of zinc, oxide of zinc] (Min.), hydrous carbonate of zinc, usually occurring in white earthy incrustations; -- called also hydrozincite. Zinc ethyl (Chem.), a colorless, transparent, poisonous liquid, composed of zinc and ethyl, which takes fire spontaneously on exposure to the atmosphere. Zinc green, a green pigment consisting of zinc and cobalt oxides; -- called also Rinmann's green. Zinc methyl (Chem.), a colorless mobile liquid Zn(CH3)2, produced by the action of methyl iodide on a zinc sodium alloy. It has a disagreeable odor, and is spontaneously inflammable in the air. It has been of great importance in the synthesis of organic compounds, and is the type of a large series of similar compounds, as zinc ethyl, zinc amyle, etc. Zinc oxide (Chem.), the oxide of zinc, ZnO, forming a light fluffy sublimate when zinc is burned; -- called also flowers of zinc, philosopher's wool, nihil album, etc. The impure oxide produced by burning the metal, roasting its ores, or in melting brass, is called also pompholyx, and tutty. Zinc spinel (Min.), a mineral, related to spinel, consisting essentially of the oxides of zinc and aluminium; gahnite. Zinc vitriol (Chem.), zinc sulphate. See White vitriol, under Vitriol. Zinc white, a white powder consisting of zinc oxide, used as a pigment. [1913 Webster]
Zinc \Zinc\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Zincked or Zinced; p. pr. & vb. n. Zincking or Zincing.] To coat with zinc; to galvanize. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

zinc n : a bluish-white lustrous metallic element; brittle at ordinary temperatures but malleable when heated; used in a wide variety of alloys and in galvanizing iron; it occurs as zinc sulphide in zinc blende [syn: Zn, atomic number 30]




  1. a chemical element (symbol Zn) with an atomic number of 30.



External links

For etymology and more information refer to: (A lot of the translations were taken from that site with permission from the author)



  • French: zinguer



/zɛ̃ɡ/, /zE~g/


fr-noun m
  1. zinc
  2. counter (in a bar, café, etc), bar

Related terms

Zinc (, from lang-de Zink) is a metallic chemical element with the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. In nonscientific context it is sometimes called spelter. Commercially pure zinc is known as Special High Grade, often abbreviated SHG, and is 99.995% pure.

Notable characteristics

Zinc is a moderately reactive bluish grey metal that tarnishes in moist air and burns in air with a bright bluish-green flame, giving off fumes of zinc oxide. It reacts with acids, alkalis and other non-metals. If not completely pure, zinc reacts with dilute acids to release hydrogen. The one common oxidation state of zinc is +2. From 100 °C to 210 °C to zinc metal is malleable and can easily be beaten into various shapes. Above , the metal becomes brittle and will be pulverized by beating. Zinc is nonmagnetic.


Zinc is the fourth most common metal in use, trailing only iron, aluminium, and copper in annual production
  • Zinc is used to Parkerize steel to prevent rust and corrosion
  • Zinc is the primary metal used in making American cents since 1982
  • Zinc is used in contemporary pipe organ building as a substitute for the classic lead/tin alloy in pipes sounding the lowest (pedal) tones, as it is tonally almost indistinguishable from lead/tin at those pitches, and has the added advantages of being much more economical and lighter in weight. Even the best organ builders use zinc in this capacity.
  • Zinc oxide is used as a white pigment in watercolours or paints, and as an activator in the rubber industry. As an over-the-counter ointment, it is applied as a thin coating on the exposed skin of the face or nose to prevent dehydration of the area of skin. It can protect against sunburn in the summer and windburn in the winter. Applied thinly to a baby's diaper area (perineum) with each diaper change, it can protect against rash. As determined in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, it is part of an effective treatment for age-related macular degeneration in some cases
  • Zinc stearate is a lubricative plastic additive.
  • Lotions made of calamine, a mix of Zn-(hydroxy-)carbonates and silicates, are used to treat skin rash.
  • Zinc metal is included in most single tablet over-the-counter daily vitamin and mineral supplements. It is believed to possess anti-oxidant properties, which protect against premature aging of the skin and muscles of the body. In larger amounts, taken as zinc alone in other proprietaries, it is believed by some to speed up the healing process after an injury. Preparations include zinc acetate and zinc gluconate.
  • Zinc lactate is being used in toothpaste to prevent malodour.
  • Zinc pyrithione is widely applied in shampoo's because of its anti-dandruff function.

Popular misconceptions

The highly characteristic metal counters of traditional French bars are often referred to as zinc bars or vaguely zinc, but actually zinc has never been used for this purpose and the counters are actually made of an alloy of lead and tin.


The name of the metal zinc is unusual and, while vague in origin, was probably first used by Paracelsus, a Swiss-born German chemist, who referred to the metal as "Zincum", in the 16th century. China did not learn of the technique until 17th Century AD. but evidence of this is lacking.
  • Dr. John Lane is said to have carried out experiments, probably at Landore, prior to his bankruptcy in 1726. Postlewayt's Universal Dictionary, a contemporary source giving technological information in Europe, did not mention zinc before 1751.
  • In 1738, William Champion patented in Great Britain a process to extract zinc from calamine in a vertical retort style smelter, using a technology somewhat similar to that used at Zawar zinc mines in Rajasthan. However, there is no evidence that he visited the orient. Champion's process was used through 1851.
Zinc is also involved in olfaction: the olfactory receptors contain zinc binding sites and a deficiency in zinc causes anosmia.
Zinc is an activator of certain enzymes, such as carbonic anhydrase. Carbonic anhydrase is important in the transport of carbon dioxide in vertebrate blood. It is also required in plants for leaf formation, the synthesis of indole acetic acid (auxin) and anaerobic respiration (alcoholic fermentation).

Food sources

Zinc is found in oysters, and to a far lesser degree in most animal proteins, beans, nuts, almonds, whole grains, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. A turkey's neck and beef's chuck or shank also contain good amounts of zinc. Phytates, which are found in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other products, have been known to decrease zinc absorption. Clinical studies have found that zinc, combined with antioxidants, may delay progression of age-related macular degeneration. Significant dietary intake of zinc has also recently been shown to impede the onset of flu. Soil conservation analyzes the vegetative uptake of naturally occurring zinc in many soil types.
The (US) recommended dietary allowance of zinc from puberty on is 11mg for males and 8mg for females, with higher amounts recommended during pregnancy and lactation.

Zinc deficiency

Zinc deficiency is typically the result of inadequate dietary intake of zinc, disease states that promote zinc losses, or physiological states that require increased zinc. Populations that consume primarily plant based diets that are low in bioavailable zinc often have zinc deficiencies Diseases or conditions that involve intestinal malabsorption promote zinc losses. Fecal losses of zinc caused by diarrhea are one contributing factor , often common in developing countries. Changes in intestinal tract absorbability and permeability due, in part, to viral, protozoal, and bacteria pathogens may also encourage fecal losses of zinc . Physiological states that require increased zinc include periods of growth in infants and children as well as in mothers during pregnancy .
Signs of zinc deficiency include hair loss, skin lesions, diarrhea, and wasting of body tissues. Eyesight, taste, smell and memory are also connected with zinc. A deficiency in zinc can cause malfunctions of these organs and functions. Congenital abnormalities causing zinc deficiency may lead to a disease called Acrodermatitis enteropathica. Conservative estimates suggest that 25% of the world's population is at risk of zinc deficiency.
Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce diarrhea prevalence and mortality in children <5 years of age.
Zinc deficiency during pregnancy can negatively affect both the mother and fetus. Animal studies indicate that maternal zinc deficiency can upset both the sequencing and efficiency of the birth process. An increased incidence of difficult and prolonged labor, hemorrhage, uterine dystocia and placental abruption has been documented in zinc deficient animals . These effects may be mediated by the defective functioning of estrogen via the estrogen receptor, which contains a zinc finger protein . In animal studies, rats who were deprived of zinc during early fetal development exhibited increased emotionality, poor memory, and abnormal response to stress which interfered with performance in learning situations . Zinc deprivation in monkeys showed that zinc deficient animals were emotionally less mature, and also had cognitive deficits indicated by their difficulty in retaining previously learned problems and in learning new problems In some studies, supplementation has been associated with motor development in very low birth weight infants and more vigorous and functional activity in infants and toddlers.
Plasma zinc levels have been found to be dependent upon vitamins A and D. This suggests that a Vitamin A or D deficiency could cause a secondary zinc deficiency. And that for treatment of zinc deficiency one should ensure adequate vitamin A and D intake.

Zinc deficiency as a cause of anorexia nervosa

Zinc deficiency causes a decrease in appetite -- which could degenerate in anorexia nervosa (AN). Appetite disorders, in turn, cause malnutrition and, notably, inadequate zinc intake. Anorexia itself is a cause of zinc defiency, thus leading to a vicious cycle: the worsening of anorexia worsens the zinc defiency. The use of zinc in the treatment of anorexia nervosa has been advocated since 1979 by Bakan. At least 15 trials showed that zinc improved weight gain in anorexia. A 1994 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that zinc (14 mg per day) doubled the rate of body mass increase in the treatment of anorexia nervosa (AN). Deficiency of other nutrients such as tyrosine and tryptophan (precursors of the monoamine neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, respectively), as well as vitamin B1 (thiamine) could contribute to this phenomenon of malnutrition-induced malnutrition.

Zinc toxicity

Even though zinc is an essential requirement for a healthy body, too much zinc can be harmful. Excessive absorption of zinc can also suppress copper and iron absorption. The free zinc ion in solution is highly toxic to plants, invertebrates, and even vertebrate fish. The Free Ion Activity Model (FIAM) is well-established in the literature, and shows that just micromolar amounts of the free ion kills some organisms. A recent example showed 6 micromolar killing 93% of all Daphnia in water.
The free zinc ion is also a powerful Lewis acid up to the point of being corrosive. Stomach acid contains hydrochloric acid, in which metallic zinc dissolves readily to give corrosive zinc chloride. Swallowing a post 1982 American one cent piece (97.5% zinc) can cause damage to the stomach lining due to the high solubility of the zinc ion in the acidic stomach. Zinc toxicity, mostly in the form of the ingestion of US pennies minted after 1982, is commonly fatal in dogs where it causes a severe hemolytic anemia. In pet parrots zinc is highly toxic and poisoning can often be fatal.
There is evidence of induced copper deficiency at low intakes of 100–300 mg Zn/d. The USDA RDA is 15 mg Zn/d. Even lower levels, closer to the RDA, may interfere with the utilization of copper and iron or to adversely affect cholesterol..

Immune system

''See also: Zinc gluconate
Zinc salts are effective against pathogens in direct application. Gastroenteritis is strongly attenuated by ingestion of zinc, and this effect could be due to direct antimicrobial action of the zinc ions in the GI tract, or to absorption of the zinc and re-release from immune cells (all granulocytes secrete zinc), or both.
In clinical trials, both zinc gluconate and zinc gluconate glycine (the formulation used in lozenges) have been shown to shorten the duration of symptoms of the common cold. The amount of glycine can vary from two to twenty moles per mole of zinc gluconate.
It should be known that there have been clinical trials that both support the use of zinc for the common cold, and are inconclusive of its effectiveness. All clinical trials have their critics, including the dosage amount used, and the highly subjective format of patient self-reporting the results of their trials.


''See also: Zinc minerals
Zinc is the 23rd most abundant element in the Earth's crust. The most heavily mined ores (sphalerite) tend to contain roughly 10% iron as well as 40–50% zinc. Minerals from which zinc is extracted include sphalerite (zinc sulfide), smithsonite (zinc carbonate), hemimorphite (zinc silicate), and franklinite (a zinc spinel).
The earth has been estimated to have 46 years supply of zinc. A chemist estimated in 2007 that at the current rate of usage, the world's supply of zinc would be exhausted by about the year 2037.

Zinc mining and processing

There are zinc mines throughout the world, with the largest producers being China, Australia and Peru. In 2005, China produced almost one-fourth of the global zinc output, reports the British Geological Survey. Mines and refineries in Europe include Umicore in Belgium, Tara, Galmoy and Lisheen in Ireland and Zinkgruvan in Sweden. Zinc metal is produced using extractive metallurgy.


The most widely used alloy of zinc is brass, in which copper is alloyed with anywhere from 9% to 45% zinc, depending upon the type of brass, along with much smaller amounts of lead and tin. Alloys of 85–88% zinc, 4–10% copper, and 2–8% aluminium find limited use in certain types of machine bearings. Alloys of primarily zinc with small amounts of copper, aluminium, and magnesium are useful in die casting as well as spin casting. An example of this is zinc aluminium. Similar alloys with the addition of a small amount of lead can be cold-rolled into sheets. An alloy of 96% zinc and 4% aluminium is used to make stamping dies for low production run applications where ferrous metal dies would be too expensive.


''See also: Zinc compounds
Zinc oxide is perhaps the best known and most widely used zinc compound, as it makes a good base for white pigments in paint. It also finds industrial use in the rubber industry, and is sold as opaque sunscreen. A variety of other zinc compounds find use industrially, such as zinc chloride (in deodorants), zinc pyrithione (anti-dandruff shampoos), zinc sulfide (in luminescent paints), and zinc methyl or zinc diethyl in the organic laboratory. Roughly one quarter of all zinc output is consumed in the form of zinc compounds.


Naturally occurring zinc is composed of the 5 stable isotopes 64Zn, 66Zn, 67Zn, 68Zn, and 70Zn with 64Zn being the most abundant (48.6% natural abundance). Twenty-one radioisotopes have been characterised with the most abundant and stable being 65Zn with a half-life of 244.26 days, and 72Zn with a half-life of 46.5 hours. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives that are less than 14 hours and the majority of these have half lives that are less than 1 second. This element also has 4 meta states.
Zinc has been proposed as a "salting" material for nuclear weapons (cobalt is another, better-known salting material). A jacket of isotopically enriched 64Zn, irradiated by the intense high-energy neutron flux from an exploding thermonuclear weapon, would transmute into the radioactive isotope Zn-65 with a half-life of 244 days and produce approximately 2.27 MeV of gamma radiation, significantly increasing the radioactivity of the weapon's fallout for several days. Such a weapon is not known to have ever been built, tested, or used.


Metallic zinc is not considered to be toxic, but free zinc ions in solution (like copper or iron ions) are highly toxic. There is also a condition called zinc shakes or zinc chills (see metal fume fever) that can be induced by the inhalation of freshly formed zinc oxide formed during the welding of galvanized materials. Excessive intake of zinc can promote deficiency in other dietary minerals.
zinc in Afrikaans: Sink
zinc in Arabic: زنك
zinc in Asturian: Cinc
zinc in Azerbaijani: Sink
zinc in Min Nan: Zn (goân-sò͘)
zinc in Belarusian: Цынк
zinc in Bosnian: Cink
zinc in Bulgarian: Цинк
zinc in Catalan: Zinc
zinc in Czech: Zinek
zinc in Corsican: Zingu
zinc in Welsh: Sinc
zinc in Danish: Zink
zinc in German: Zink
zinc in Estonian: Tsink
zinc in Modern Greek (1453-): Ψευδάργυρος
zinc in Spanish: Zinc
zinc in Esperanto: Zinko
zinc in Basque: Zink
zinc in Persian: روی
zinc in French: Zinc
zinc in Friulian: Zinc
zinc in Irish: Sinc
zinc in Manx: Shinc
zinc in Galician: Cinc
zinc in Korean: 아연
zinc in Armenian: Ցինկ
zinc in Hindi: जस्ता
zinc in Croatian: Cink
zinc in Ido: Zinko
zinc in Indonesian: Seng
zinc in Icelandic: Sink
zinc in Italian: Zinco
zinc in Hebrew: אבץ
zinc in Javanese: Sèng
zinc in Swahili (macrolanguage): Zinki
zinc in Haitian: Zenk
zinc in Kurdish: Çînko
zinc in Latin: Zincum
zinc in Latvian: Cinks
zinc in Lithuanian: Cinkas
zinc in Lojban: zinki
zinc in Hungarian: Cink
zinc in Macedonian: Цинк
zinc in Malayalam: നാകം
zinc in Maori: Konutea
zinc in Marathi: झिंक
zinc in Mongolian: Цайр
zinc in Dutch: Zink (element)
zinc in Newari: जिन्क
zinc in Japanese: 亜鉛
zinc in Norwegian: Sink
zinc in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sink
zinc in Occitan (post 1500): Zinc
zinc in Uzbek: Rux
zinc in Low German: Zink
zinc in Polish: Cynk
zinc in Portuguese: Zinco
zinc in Romanian: Zinc
zinc in Quechua: Tsinku
zinc in Russian: Цинк
zinc in Sanskrit: वङ्गम्
zinc in Sicilian: Zincu
zinc in Simple English: Zinc
zinc in Slovak: Zinok
zinc in Slovenian: Cink
zinc in Serbian: Цинк
zinc in Serbo-Croatian: Cink
zinc in Finnish: Sinkki
zinc in Swedish: Zink
zinc in Tamil: துத்தநாகம்
zinc in Thai: สังกะสี
zinc in Vietnamese: Kẽm
zinc in Tajik: Руҳ
zinc in Turkish: Çinko
zinc in Ukrainian: Цинк
zinc in Urdu: خارصین
zinc in Contenese: 鋅
zinc in Chinese: 锌
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