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Phosphorus (n.) A poisonous nonmetallic element of the nitrogen group, obtained as a white, or yellowish, translucent waxy substance, having a characteristic disagreeable smell. It is very active chemically, must be preserved under water, and unites with oxygen even at ordinary temperatures, giving a faint glow, -- whence its name. It always occurs compined, usually in phosphates, as in the mineral apatite, in bones, etc. It is used in the composition on the tips of friction matches, and for many other purposes. The molecule contains four atoms. Symbol P. Atomic weight 31.0.