With an aim towards the design of efficient and straightforward fluorescent probes for hydrazine, the synthesis of (2-acetoxyaryl) methylene diacetate derivatives (1-4) was carried out by reacting substituted aromatic α-hydroxy aldehydes with acetyl chloride and sodium acetate in excellent yields. As a preliminary investigation, the ability of probe 1 was examined for the detection of substituted aliphatic and aromatic amines, amino acids, and other ions in Britton-Robinson buffer solution (50 mM, water/ethanol v/v of 99/1 at pH 7.4). Probe 1 selectively exhibited an intense blue fluorescence with hydrazine in less than 2 minutes, whereas light green or no fluorescence was noticed with substituted amines and amino acids. Among all the probes employed (1-4) in the present study, probes 1 and 2 were found efficient towards the rapid detection of hydrazine. Furthermore, the fluorescence sensing ability of probes 1 and 2 was tested not only under varying pH conditions but also by varying water-fraction from 0-99%. Moreover, the detection limits of hydrazine using 1 and 2 were found as 8.4 and 8.7 ppb, respectively, which is less than the acceptable limit as per the standards of the US Environment Protection Agency. In this contribution, the probes 1 and 2 demonstrate rapid, selective, sensitive, and ratiometric detection of highly toxic hydrazine by OFF-ON fluorescence switch in water samples as well as living cells. © 2020 The Royal Society of Chemistry.