# What is the oxidation number of carbon in cyanide ion?

May 22, 2017

I would say $- I$......
The typical Lewis represention of cyanide anion is as $: N \equiv C {:}^{-}$. Of course this means that nitrogen has an oxidation number of $0$, because the sum of the oxidation numbers must be equal to the charge on the ion. We conceive that the 6 electrons that comprise the carbon nitrogen bond are shared by the participating atoms. And there are this 5 electrons around nitrogen, i.e. a neutral nitrogen, $Z = 5$, and 5 electrons around carbon, $Z = 4$, an ANIONIC carbon.
If we draw the Lewis structure of cyanide anion as ""^(-):stackrel(ddot)N=C:, then carbon has an oxidation number of $0$. But I can't think offhand of a complex where cyanide anion binds thru the nitrogen.