Abstract A spectrophotometric method is described for the determination of the widely used herbicide, atrazine. Atrazine reacts with pyridine and forms a quaternary halide which adds a hydroxyl group in the presence of alkali to form a carbinol base. The heterocyclic ring of the resulting carbinol breaks forming a glutaconic dialdehyde which is subsequently coupled with p-aminoacetophenone (PMP) to form a yellow orange polymethine dye. Beer's law is obeyed in the range 0.16–1.6 ppm of atrazine at 470 nm. The method is sensitive and free from the interference of most of the foreign species. The analytical parameters have been optimised and the method has been successfully applied to the determination of atrazine in various environmental and biological samples.