Reactive carbonyl species (RCSs) including one carbon formaldehyde (FA) and dicarbonyl compounds such as methylglyoxal (MGO) and glyoxal (GO) are produced during demethylase reactions and various glucose metabolic pathways respectively. Elevation of the RCSs concentrations in cells is due to abnormal DNA damage, glycation adducts with macromolecules that lead to various neurotoxic diseases. Hence, regular monitoring of these RCSs with an easy tool is of utmost interest. However, conventional methods such as chromatography and mass spectrometry for the detection of these species are not so economically viable. These issues were well addressed by the non-invasive reactivity-based fluorescence techniques. However, tedious synthesis, only specific to either mono aldehyde is limited to detect multiple RCSs in physiologies by synthesized fluorophores. An alternative, simple small molecules are widely applied as commercial biomarkers such as terephthalate and 2,3-diaminonaphthalene (NAP) for hydroxy radical (OH·) and nitric oxide (NO) respectively. Herein, we report an analogue of NAP, 1,8-diamino naphthalene (DAN) is an efficient chemosensor for highly sensitive detection of FA, MGO and GO with minimum detection limits of 0.95–3.97 μM. Surprisingly, DAN shows a “turn on” response towards RCSs but remaining silent towards NO which are exactly opposite to commercial probe NAP. Exogenous RCSs imaging in vitro cancerous cells shows the efficacy of the probe and its potential application for RCSs monitoring in cancer cells, generation of toxic byproducts. © 2020 Elsevier B.V.