Chromophores that absorb in the far-red region of the spectrum are increasingly being utilized for applications in the biosciences. We have synthesized and evaluated a novel series of fluorescent oxonols based on thiobarbituric acids containing aryl and heteroaryl substituents. The novel chromophores possess narrow absorption spectra ( approximately 40-nm bandwidths), reasonable Stokes shifts ( approximately 25 nm), and quantum yields of up to 0.67 in organic solvents and 0.3 in aqueous solvents, with absorption wavelength maxima at 620-640 nm. The spectral properties of the compounds are sensitive to base and exhibit a loss of far-red absorbance that is concentration and time dependent. Derivatives have been synthesized that can be used for the labeling of macromolecules such as proteins and DNA. The probes show environment sensitivity and the oligonucleotide conjugates sense the formation of duplex DNA. These novel far-red fluorophores have potential applications in diagnostic and research applications.