Oxidation is the loss of electrons or an increase in the oxidation state, while reduction is the gain of electrons or a decrease in the oxidation state.
In redox processes, the reductant gives electrons to the oxidant. Therefore, in the reaction, the reductant or reducing agent loses electrons and is oxidized, and the oxidant or oxidizing agent gains electrons and is reduced. The pair of an oxidizing and reducing agent that is involved in a particular reaction is called a redox pair. The oxidation itself and the reduction alone are each called a half reaction because two half-reactions always occur together to form a whole reaction.
Oxidation firstly inferred to a reaction with oxygen to form an oxide. Later, the term was expanded to encompass oxygen-like substances that accomplished parallel chemical reactions. Ultimately, the meaning was generalized to include all processes involving the loss of electrons.
Substances that have the ability to reduce other substances (cause them to gain electrons) are said to be reductive or reducing and are known as, reductants, or reducers. The reductant (reducing agent) transfers electrons to another substance and is itself oxidized. And, because it donates electrons, the reducing agent is also called an electron donor. Firstly, the word reduction originally referred to the loss in weight upon heating a metallic ore such as a metal oxide to extract the metal. In other words, ore was "reduced" to metal.
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