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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Nitrous \Ni"trous\, a. [L. nitrosus full of natron: cf. F. nitreux. See Niter.] 1. Of, pertaining to, or containing, niter; of the quality of niter, or resembling it. [1913 Webster] 2. (Chem.) Of, pertaining to, or designating, any one of those compounds in which nitrogen has a relatively lower valence as contrasted with nitric compounds. [1913 Webster] Nitrous acid (Chem.), a hypothetical acid of nitrogen HNO2, not known in the free state, but forming a well known series of salts, viz., the nitrites. Nitrous oxide. See Laughing gas. [1913 Webster]