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

His government legalized recreational cannabis and medically assisted dying, imposed a nationwide price on carbon and expanded parental benefits. Washington Post, "Trudeau to launch Canada’s election season, faces challenging race," 11 Sep. 2019 The Amazon rainforest stores a huge amount of carbon in its vegetation and soil. NBC News, "Why is the Amazon rainforest important?," 9 Sep. 2019 As a result of the explosion, the meteorite, which had an abundance of carbon inside, became heated. Fox News, "Remnants of ancient planet just found in famous meteorite," 3 Sep. 2019 The Amazon’s plant life stores an estimated 100 billion tons of carbon. Max Fisher, New York Times, "‘It’s Really Close’: How the Amazon Rainforest Could Self-Destruct," 30 Aug. 2019 Before the recent fires, the Amazon released up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year due to deforestation, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Susan Scutti, CNN, "Here's what we know about the fires in the Amazon rainforest," 23 Aug. 2019 Environmentalists find these numbers concerning because the Amazon, the largest rainforest in the world, plays a crucial role in tempering the effects of global warming by absorbing large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Tiffany Diane Tso,, "The Amazon Rainforest Is Ablaze — Here’s How You Can Help," 23 Aug. 2019 Without trees, the Amazon loses its sequestering power and instead becomes a belcher of carbon. Matt Simon, WIRED, "The Horrifying Science of the Deforestation Fueling Amazon Fires," 23 Aug. 2019 According to a 2011 study by the U.S. Forest Service, the world’s forests are responsible for absorbing 2.4 billion tons of carbon annually, which is about one-third of global fossil fuel emissions. Maria Pasquini,, "Gisele Bündchen: ‘We Cannot Close Our Eyes’ to Devastating Destruction of Amazon Rainforest," 23 Aug. 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

14 Sep 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).


concealment of treason or felony

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