as·​bes·​tos | \ as-ˈbes-təs How to pronounce asbestos (audio) , az-\

Definition of asbestos

: any of several minerals (such as chrysotile) that readily separate into long flexible fibers, that cause asbestosis and have been implicated as causes of certain cancers, and that have been used especially formerly as fireproof insulating materials

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

A grayish mineral that separates readily into long, flexible fibers, asbestos was used in the past to make brake linings, insulation, roofing shingles, floor and ceiling tiles, cement pipes, and other building materials. Asbestos fabrics were used for safety apparel and theater curtains. In the 1970s, it was found that prolonged inhalation of the tiny asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer, and other serious lung diseases. In 1989, the US Government instituted a gradual ban on the manufacture, use, and export of most products made with asbestos.

Examples of asbestos in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Johnson & Johnson , which lost $39.8 billion in market value Friday after Reuters reported last week that the company knew for years that its baby powder sometimes contained asbestos, continued to slide. Jessica Menton, WSJ, "Dow Industrials Fall 508 Points as Investors Fret Over Growth," 18 Dec. 2018 Work crews have removed asbestos from several floors, added landscaping, restored electric service and installed a sump-pump system. Dan Austin And Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "Archive: Once crown jewel, Detroit train station now symbol of ruin," 11 June 2018 The landfill received about 568,000 tons of trash from the city by rail last year, about 48% of its total waste intake, including construction debris, asbestos and other materials, according to Waste Management. Kate King, WSJ, "New York City Garbage Raises a Stink Upstate," 27 Aug. 2018 Our reporters already explored how lead, asbestos and mold are making children sick in Philly classrooms. Aubrey Nagle,, "Guilty plea in grisly Bucks murders, botched repairs endanger Philly schools | Morning Newsletter," 17 May 2018 There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, which when airborne and inhaled can cause cancer. Wendy Ruderman,, "$15.7M for emergency Philly school repairs to be announced by Hite, Wolf on Friday," 29 June 2018 There are holes in the ceiling from dripping pipes, and ducts are covered in asbestos, the university said. Rachel Leingang, azcentral, "See what Arizona's universities are building with millions in new money from the state," 15 June 2018 Shares have fallen 13% in the past two sessions following a Reuters report that company executives have known for decades that its baby powder sometimes tested positive for asbestos. Amrith Ramkumar, WSJ, "Stocks to Watch: Rent-A-Center, CBS, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, Oracle, Red Hat," 18 Dec. 2018 By August 1971, asbestos regulations were already in place. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "What Is Asbestos, And Why Did We Use It So Much?," 7 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'asbestos.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of asbestos

1607, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for asbestos

Middle English albeston mineral supposed to be inextinguishable when set on fire, probably from Middle French abeston, from Medieval Latin asbeston, alteration of Latin asbestos, from Greek, unslaked lime, from asbestos inextinguishable, from a- + sbennynai to quench

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about asbestos

Statistics for asbestos

Last Updated

13 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for asbestos

The first known use of asbestos was in 1607

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for asbestos



English Language Learners Definition of asbestos

: a soft gray mineral that does not burn, that was used especially as a building material in the past, and that can cause serious diseases of the lungs when people breathe its dust


as·​bes·​tos | \ as-ˈbes-təs How to pronounce asbestos (audio) , az-\

Kids Definition of asbestos

: a grayish mineral that separates easily into long flexible fibers and has been used especially in the past in making fireproof materials


as·​bes·​tos | \ as-ˈbes-təs How to pronounce asbestos (audio) , az- How to pronounce asbestos (audio) \

Medical Definition of asbestos

: any of several minerals that readily separate into long flexible fibers, that cause asbestosis and have been implicated as causes of certain cancers, and that have been used especially formerly as fireproof insulating materials

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on asbestos

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with asbestos

Spanish Central: Translation of asbestos

Nglish: Translation of asbestos for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of asbestos for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about asbestos

Comments on asbestos

What made you want to look up asbestos? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the range of authority or knowledge

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!