as·​bes·​tos | \ as-ˈbe-stəs 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

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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 Dorothy is awoken from her sleep in a poppy field by falling snow—actually industrial-grade chrysotile, commonly known as asbestos, and highly carcinogenic. The Economist, "Making white Christmases A short history of Hollywood snow business," 12 Dec. 2019 It was never made clear, however, whether asbestos was present at the property. Kat Stafford, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit's largest demolition contractor demolishes the wrong home — again," 18 Dec. 2019 The asbestos requires a special permit for disposal. USA TODAY, "Feral hog hunting, coral restoration, West Nile research: News from around our 50 states," 11 Dec. 2019 That’s because before any work could be done, an environmental company had to be hired to determine if there were any hazardous materials such as asbestos to contend with. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Paying a hefty price for giving the kids a bath," 20 Oct. 2019 What's more, many of those schools have other environmental problems — including lead, asbestos and mold — that could be higher priorities. Author: Tammy Webber, Martha Irvine, Anchorage Daily News, "Toxic PCBs linger in schools as EPA and lawmakers fail to act," 16 Oct. 2019 The restaurant is still standing, covered in sheets of plastic because asbestos was found inside. Heather Knight,, "Lowell High School student pushes plan to lower voting age," 15 Oct. 2019 For example, think of the diseases caused by asbestos, silica from sand blasting, coal dust and tobacco smoke. Cosby Stone, The Conversation, "Vitamin E and vaping injuries: What’s safe in your diet is rarely safe in your lungs," 22 Nov. 2019 Exposure to asbestos, as well as diesel exhaust and other hazardous chemicals, can cause lung cancer. Juno Demelo, Glamour, "6 Things Besides Cigarettes That Have Been Linked to Lung Cancer," 9 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for asbestos

Time Traveler

The first known use of asbestos was in 1607

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Statistics for asbestos

Last Updated

2 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Asbestos.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

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More Definitions for asbestos


How to pronounce asbestos (audio)

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

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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

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not to be intimidated or subdued

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