bio·​fu·​el ˌbi-(ˌ)ō-ˈfyü(-ə)l How to pronounce biofuel (audio)
: a fuel (such as wood or ethanol) composed of or produced from biological raw materials compare fossil fuel

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Since the early 19th century, "fossil fuel" has been used to refer to fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas which are formed from the remains of plants and animals which have lain in the earth for millions of years. In the 1970s, a new word, "biofuel," began to be used to describe a different kind of fuel, one taken from more contemporary organic matter. These fuels include ethanol, which can be derived from such products as corn and sugarcane, and biodiesel, which can be formed from vegetable oils. These organic sources are reflected in the prefix, bio-, meaning "life" or "living organisms or tissue." The prefix bio- was borrowed from the Greek bios, meaning "mode of life."

Examples of biofuel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The wearer’s natural tears—more specifically the electrolytes within them—serve as a biofuel to generate power. IEEE Spectrum, 1 Apr. 2024 For all of California’s big talk on electric vehicles, staffers at a powerful state agency are seemingly working just as hard to promote biofuels — even though many experts and actvists say those fuels risk hurting the climate more than helping. Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times, 26 Mar. 2024 The sponsons will be able to store plenty of fuel, too, with tanks designed to hold the renewable biofuel of the future. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 22 Mar. 2024 There are generators that use biofuels and diesel as needed, but solar is the big player in the Brando’s energy future. Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 2024 Environmentalists worry that a push for biofuels could lead to deforestation, reversing the gains that Indonesia had made in protecting its rich forests. Somini Sengupta, New York Times, 14 Feb. 2024 Measuring emissions by intensity means a company can technically increase its fossil fuel output and overall emissions while using offsets or adding renewable energy or biofuels to its product mix. Reuters, CNN, 14 Mar. 2024 The duck doesn’t know it—and who could blame it, really—but azolla may soon spread across human civilization, becoming food for people and livestock, fertilizer for crops, and even biofuel. Matt Simon, WIRED, 11 Mar. 2024 The unique setup was to include four electric motors and two turbines that ran on either natural gas, diesel, or biofuels to keep the vehicle’s battery charged. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 6 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'biofuel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1974, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of biofuel was in 1974


Dictionary Entries Near biofuel

Cite this Entry

“Biofuel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

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