as·bes·tos | \as-ˈbes-təs, 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

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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 should ready itself for a flood of new lawsuits after a jury Thursday ordered the company to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in its talc products, legal experts said. Jef Feeley And Margaret Cronin Fisk,, "Johnson & Johnson’s $4.69 billion talc verdict may open floodgates to more suits," 14 July 2018 The 40 surviving units — the ones Morgan helped save — were contaminated by smoke and asbestos and red-tagged. Lizzie Johnson,, "Regret haunts Wine Country fire hero: ‘I’ve never cried this much’," 13 July 2018 Image Johnson & Johnson was ordered Thursday to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer. New York Times, "Johnson & Johnson Told to Pay $4.7 Billion in Baby Powder Lawsuit," 12 July 2018 The latest verdict is the first in a string of personal-injury trials testing some plaintiffs’ theory that asbestos in J&J’s signature talcum powder can cause ovarian cancer. Sara Randazzo, WSJ, "J&J Hit With $4.7 Billion Jury Verdict in Baby Powder Suit," 12 July 2018 The school will replace mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems and will remove asbestos. Rachel Leingang, azcentral, "See what Arizona's universities are building with millions in new money from the state," 15 June 2018 Attorneys argued the pharmaceutical company sold and potentially still sells talc products, like baby powder, contaminated with asbestos -- a mineral found in talc that has been linked to lung cancer. Jericka Duncan, CBS News, "Johnson & Johnson still battling thousands of cases involving its talcum powder," 13 July 2018 And the building might have asbestos or mold, the company’s proposal says. Brittany Wallman,, "Plan for homeless shelter at city building hits roadblock," 6 July 2018 Their ballot measure called for the state to issue a $2 billion bond for the cost of cleaning up the paint, along with asbestos and other hazards in homes. Melody Gutierrez,, "Manufacturers back down on lead-paint California ballot measure," 28 June 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.

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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

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Statistics for asbestos

Last Updated

25 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for asbestos

The first known use of asbestos was in 1607

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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, 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, az- \

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

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