noun, often attributive
car·​bon | \ ˈkär-bən How to pronounce carbon (audio) \

Definition of carbon

1 : a nonmetallic chemical element with atomic number 6 that readily forms compounds with many other elements and is a constituent of organic compounds in all known living tissues — see Chemical Elements Table
2 : a carbon rod used in an arc lamp
3a : a sheet of carbon paper

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Examples of carbon in a Sentence

a carbon of the document this new digital camera is a carbon of a well-known model costing almost twice as much

Recent Examples on the Web

The data matches with estimates that U.S. carbon emissions rose last year, breaking with a years long trend of declining emissions as coal power plants steadily close in favor of natural gas, wind and solar energy. James Osborne, Houston Chronicle, "Renewables' share of U.S. energy fell in 2018, EIA says," 1 July 2019 The noisy parades highlighted blue collar workers’ opposition to House Bill 2020, a bill to regulate carbon emissions., "Winners and losers of Oregon’s 2019 legislative session," 1 July 2019 Using fewer trucks helps the company save on packaging and labor, and creates less carbon emissions, Hendler said. Allison Hagan,, "For craft brewers, four-packs of cans become the norm," 30 June 2019 The aviation industry has long been criticized for its large environmental footprint, particularly its climate-warming carbon emissions. Katie Camero, Science | AAAS, "Aviation’s dirty secret: Airplane contrails are a surprisingly potent cause of global warming," 28 June 2019 Air-conditioning increases energy use, which will increase Germany’s carbon emissions, making climate change worse. Stephen Leahy, National Geographic, "Europe has had five 500-year summers in 15 years. And now this," 28 June 2019 Bioenergy should be a bigger part of an all-in strategy to reduce carbon emissions and limit dependence on fossil fuels. WSJ, "Wood Is a Natural 24-Hour Renewable Fuel," 27 June 2019 At the heart of the political standoff is a bill that would drastically reduce carbon emissions. Carter Evans, CBS News, "Oregon Republicans in hiding to avoid voting on climate bill," 25 June 2019 The gilets jaunes protests began on November 17th, putatively because of an increase in fuel taxes that the government had introduced to help curb carbon emissions. Lauren Collins, The New Yorker, "Can Emmanuel Macron Stem the Populist Tide?," 24 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'carbon.' 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 carbon

1788, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for carbon

French carbone, from Latin carbon-, carbo ember, charcoal

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Statistics for carbon

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for carbon

The first known use of carbon was in 1788

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More Definitions for carbon



English Language Learners Definition of carbon

: a chemical element that forms diamonds and coal and that is found in petroleum and in all living plants and animals


car·​bon | \ ˈkär-bən How to pronounce carbon (audio) \

Kids Definition of carbon

: a chemical element occurring as diamond and graphite, in coal and petroleum, and in plant and animal bodies


noun, often attributive
car·​bon | \ ˈkär-bən How to pronounce carbon (audio) \

Medical Definition of carbon

: a nonmetallic element found native (as in diamonds and graphite) or as a constituent of coal, petroleum, asphalt, limestone, and organic compounds or obtained artificially (as in activated charcoal) symbol C — see Chemical Elements Table

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More from Merriam-Webster on carbon

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with carbon

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for carbon

Spanish Central: Translation of carbon

Nglish: Translation of carbon for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on carbon

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


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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