noun, often attributive
car·​bon | \ ˈkär-bən \

Definition of carbon

1 : a nonmetallic chiefly tetravalent element found native (as in diamond and graphite) or as a constituent of coal, petroleum, and asphalt, of limestone and other carbonates, and of organic compounds or obtained artificially in varying degrees of purity especially as carbon black, lampblack, activated carbon, charcoal, and coke — 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 goal would then be to use only carbon-free sources to generate electricity by 2045. Jonathan J. Cooper, The Seattle Times, "California aims to get all electricity from clean sources," 10 Sep. 2018 The carbon-free energy, however, regularly causes migraines for operators at the Bonneville Power Administration, based in Portland, Ore., who manage the regional electricity grid. Peter Fairley, Scientific American, "Weather-Smart Electric Grids Are Needed for Wind and Solar Power to Surge," 13 July 2018 Lawmakers also will consider a bill bumping up those renewable energy mandates and setting a goal of getting all of California’s energy from carbon-free sources by 2045. Washington Post, "California lawmakers face dozens of key bills in final month," 7 July 2018 But while that shift continues, the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates will allow Concord to increase the percentage of carbon-free power supplied to town consumers by 25 percent this fall and 62 percent next year. John Laidler,, "Concord to increase electricity rates," 2 July 2018 There is no environmental argument for keeping open coal plants, which are the most carbon-intensive form of power. New York Times, "Trump Orders a Lifeline for Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants," 1 June 2018 Plus, it is all produced in the company’s carbon-neutral plant. Marie Claire, "Prix d’Excellence de la Beauté 2018," 24 Apr. 2018 The company, with the support of the nuclear advocacy group Nuclear Matters, has also argued that its nuclear plants account for most of the carbon-free generation in Ohio and should be recognized financially for their contributions to clean air. John Funk,, "FirstEnergy Solutions hires top DC lobbyist while DOE considers its plea for emergency action," 20 Apr. 2018 And high-speed trains like carbon-neutral Eurostar are three times more energy efficient as compared to regional trains. Michaela Trimble, Vogue, "7 Ways to Make Your Travel More Sustainable," 19 Apr. 2018

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

2 Feb 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 \

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 \

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

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esteemed in general opinion

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