bi·​tu·​men bə-ˈtyü-mən How to pronounce bitumen (audio)
 especially British also  ˈbit-yə-
: an asphalt of Asia Minor used in ancient times as a cement and mortar
: any of various mixtures of hydrocarbons (such as tar) often together with their nonmetallic derivatives that occur naturally or are obtained as residues after heat-refining natural substances (such as petroleum)
specifically : such a mixture soluble in carbon disulfide
bituminization noun
bituminize transitive verb

Examples of bitumen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The number of green spaces is decreasing, while the number of artificial surfaces, like bitumen and concrete, which absorb and radiate heat, is increasing. Gavin Butler Matthew Abbott, New York Times, 20 Dec. 2023 Its Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline exploded in Strasburg, Virginia, in July and its existing Keystone pipeline spilled nearly 600,000 gallons of bitumen oil in Kansas last December. Claire Rush, The Christian Science Monitor, 20 Oct. 2023 The bitumen plants were shut down for weeks—a first. John Vaillant, Time, 7 June 2023 And in the Bible, Noah sealed his arc with bitumen to make the vessel more hydrodynamic. Adrienne Bernhard, Popular Mechanics, 20 Mar. 2023 The Dublin pitch-drop experiment was set up in 1944 at Trinity College Dublin to demonstrate the high viscosity or low fluidity of pitch — also known as bitumen or asphalt — a material that appears to be solid at room temperature, but is in fact flowing, albeit extremely slowly. Richard Johnston, Scientific American, 19 July 2013 Hundreds of people had gathered to welcome Torres and 92 other garbagemen (their preferred title) to a football-field sized patch of bitumen at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler. Lane Sainty, The Arizona Republic, 24 Feb. 2023 The analysis revealed traces of animal fats, beeswax, vegetable oils, and bitumen along with multiple plant resins—ingredients that were probably mixed and heated to form ointments. Byandrew Curry,, 1 Feb. 2023 Thinners in the thick, sludgy, diluted bitumen evaporated, causing significant amounts of the oil to sink to the river bottom, clump with sediments and other materials, and complicate the cleanup. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, 19 June 2020 See More

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

Word History


Middle English bithumen mineral pitch, from Latin bitumin-, bitumen

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bitumen was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near bitumen

Cite this Entry

“Bitumen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

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