noun, often attributive
\ ˈkōl How to pronounce coal (audio) \
plural coals

Definition of coal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a piece of glowing carbon or charred wood : ember
3a : a black or brownish-black solid combustible substance formed by the partial decomposition of vegetable matter without free access of air and under the influence of moisture and often increased pressure and temperature that is widely used as a natural fuel
b coals plural, British : pieces or a quantity of the fuel broken up for burning
haul/rake (someone) over the coals
: to criticize (someone) very severely The government was then raked over the coals for refusing to send out information about the candidates.The Economist The Headmaster was angry. So angry, indeed, that he did what in a more lucid interval he would not have done. He hauled a senior over the coals in the hearing of a number of juniors …— P. G. Wodehouse


coaled; coaling; coals

Definition of coal (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to burn to charcoal : char
2 : to supply with coal

intransitive verb

: to take in coal

Examples of coal in a Sentence

Noun When the coals are red, they are very hot. I toasted one last marshmallow over the coals of the campfire.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun West Virginia, for example, is the second-largest coal-producing state in the country, but production has declined significantly during the past two decades. David Gelles,, 5 Aug. 2022 Barges were used to haul coal, grain and heavy goods from village to village. Dan Fellner, The Arizona Republic, 4 Aug. 2022 Energy commodities like coal are a different story, however. Megha Mandavia, WSJ, 4 Aug. 2022 The minority Greens party has been pressing the government to refuse approvals of coal or gas projects to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY, 4 Aug. 2022 Extracting coal from mines is dangerous, with risks including rockfalls, collapses, fires and explosions resulting from flammable gases being ignited. Sammy Westfall, Washington Post, 4 Aug. 2022 Over the past two years, China has banned Australia’s exports of wine, lobsters and coal, after its government called for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19, which first surfaced in China. New York Times, 3 Aug. 2022 The fuel mix used to generate Utah’s electricity is currently comprised of 48% coal, Campbell said, compared to around 30% renewables. Daedan Olander, The Salt Lake Tribune, 3 Aug. 2022 An energy community includes a brownfield site or an area which has significant employment related to extraction, processing, transport, or storage of coal, oil or natural gas. Lynn Mucenski Keck, Forbes, 2 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'coal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of coal


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1560, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for coal


Middle English col, from Old English; akin to Old High German & Old Norse kol burning ember, Middle Irish gúal coal

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Time Traveler for coal

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The first known use of coal was before the 12th century

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Statistics for coal

Last Updated

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Coal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for coal


\ ˈkōl How to pronounce coal (audio) \

Kids Definition of coal

1 : a piece of glowing or charred wood : ember
2 : a black solid mineral substance that is formed by the partial decay of plant matter under the influence of moisture and often increased pressure and temperature within the earth and is mined for use as a fuel

More from Merriam-Webster on coal

Nglish: Translation of coal for Spanish Speakers

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


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