AskDefine | Define matches

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of match


  1. third-person singular of match

Extensive Definition

A match is a consumable tool for lighting a fire under controlled circumstances on demand. Matches are readily available, being sold by tobacconists and many other kinds of shops. Matches are rarely sold singly; they are sold in multiples, packaged in match boxes or matchbooks. A match is typically a wooden stick (usually sold in match boxes) or stiff paper stick (usually sold in matchbooks) coated at one end (the match head) with a material often containing the element phosphorus, which will ignite from the heat of friction if rubbed ("struck") against a suitable surface. Gelatin is used as a binder in match heads.
There are two main types of matches: safety matches, which can be struck only against a specially prepared surface; and strike-anywhere matches, for which any solid surface can be used.
Match-type compositions may also be used to produce electric matches, which are fired electrically. These items do not rely on the heat of friction.

History of the term match

match: 1350–1400; Middle English macche (wick) < Middle French meiche, Old French mesche < Vulgar Latin *mesca (lamp wick), metathetic variant of Latin myxa < Greek mýxa, μυξα, (mucus, nostril, nozzle of a lamp)
Historically, the term match referred to lengths of cord, or later cambric, impregnated with chemicals, and allowed to burn continuously. An unsuccessful experiment by his professor, Meissner, gave Irinyi the idea to replace potassium chlorate with lead dioxide in the head of the phosphorus match. Some heads contain antimony(III) sulfide so they burn more vigorously. Safety matches ignite due to the extreme reactivity of phosphorus with the potassium chlorate in the match head. When the match is struck the phosphorus and chlorate mix in a small amount forming something similar to the explosive Armstrong's mixture which ignites due to the friction.
The Lundström brothers - James and Gray - had obtained a sample of red phosphorus from Arthur Albright at The Great Exhibition, held at The Crystal Palace in 1851, and made safety matches with it. They misplaced the matches and did not try them until just before the Paris Exhibition of 1855. They were still usable.

Strike anywhere matches

Two French chemists, Savene and Cahen, developed a safety match using phosphorus sesquisulfide. They proved that the substance was not poisonous, that it could be used in a "strike anywhere" match and that the match heads were not explosive.



  • Beaver, Patrick, (1985). The Match Makers: The story of Bryant & May. London: Henry Melland Limited. ISBN 0-907929-11-7.
  • Emsley, John, (2000). The Shocking History of Phosphorus: A biography of the Devil's element. Basingstoke: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-333-76638-5.
  • Threlfall, Richard E., (1951). The story of 100 years of Phosphorus making: 1851 - 1951. Oldbury: Albright & Wilson Ltd.
  • Oxford (1999). Concise Oxford Dictionary. Tenth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Steele, H. Thomas (1987). Close Cover Before Striking: The Golden Age of Matchbook Art. Abeville Press.

External links

matches in Arabic: عود ثقاب
matches in Min Nan: Hoan-á-hoé
matches in Bulgarian: Кибрит
matches in Catalan: Misto
matches in Czech: Zápalky
matches in Danish: Tændstik
matches in German: Streichholz
matches in Estonian: Tuletikk
matches in Modern Greek (1453-): Σπίρτο
matches in Spanish: Fósforo (utensilio)
matches in Esperanto: Alumeto
matches in Persian: کبریت
matches in French: Allumette
matches in Galician: Misto
matches in Classical Chinese: 火柴
matches in Ido: Alumeto
matches in Indonesian: Korek api
matches in Italian: Fiammifero
matches in Hebrew: גפרור
matches in Georgian: ასანთი
matches in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kibiriti
matches in Luxembourgish: Fixspoun
matches in Lithuanian: Degtukas
matches in Lingala: Alimɛ́ti
matches in Hungarian: Gyufa
matches in Malay (macrolanguage): Mancis
matches in Dutch: Lucifer (vuur)
matches in Dutch Low Saxon: Striekzwevel
matches in Japanese: マッチ
matches in Norwegian: Fyrstikk
matches in Norwegian Nynorsk: Fyrstikk
matches in Low German: Rietsticken
matches in Polish: Zapałka
matches in Portuguese: Palito de fósforo
matches in Romanian: Chibrit
matches in Quechua: Ninachaq
matches in Russian: Спичка
matches in Sicilian: Cirinu
matches in Simple English: Safety match
matches in Slovak: Zápalka (palička)
matches in Slovenian: Vžigalica
matches in Finnish: Tulitikku
matches in Swedish: Tändsticka
matches in Tamil: தீக்குச்சி
matches in Telugu: అగ్గిపుల్ల
matches in Thai: ไม้ขีดไฟ
matches in Tajik: Гӯгирд
matches in Turkish: Kibrit
matches in Ukrainian: Сірники
matches in Samogitian: Sierčiks
matches in Chinese: 火柴
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