noun, often attributive
\ˈkōl \
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


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

Industrial in nature, best known for coal mining, steel production and car manufacture., "How Jeff Shi and Fosun International Transformed Wolverhampton Wanderers Into a Premier League Side," 12 July 2018 These sheets come in six colors: white, fog, toast, blush, coal, and indigo. Jacqueline Wladis, Allure, "I Tried Parachute's Linen Sheets and They Totally Transformed My Sleep," 14 June 2018 Her neighbors have been seeking to stop coal ash from being dumped in a landfill in Uniontown, a small rural community in the west-central part of the state., "Meet The Women Who Turned The Tide In Alabama," 30 May 2018 While Abrams is obviously concerned with capturing the trying conditions of life in coal country, her images don't come off as loaded or didactic in the way that this kind of work can sometimes be. Dmitry Samarov, Chicago Reader, "Photojournalist Nancy Abrams looks back on her years in West Virginia in The Climb From Salt Lick," 14 May 2018 Some here say the rare feat has occurred in an otherwise politically red state because of its staunchly Democratic blue oases, much like quirky Austin in conservative Texas or liberal Louisville in Kentucky coal country. The Washington Post,, "With LaToya Cantrell, black female Democrats will lead Louisiana's 3 largest cities," 6 May 2018 Blankenship also happens to be the former C.E.O. of a controversial coal-mining company, and recently served a year-long stint in federal prison for his role in the deaths of 29 miners in a 2010 explosion at one of his mines. Tina Nguyen, The Hive, "Are Republicans Losing Control of Their Own Party?," 17 Apr. 2018 Russian authorities have launched an investigation into a fire at the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo, a coal-mining city in Siberia, that left at least 64 people dead, and 16 missing, the BBC reports. Madeleine Aggeler, The Cut, "Mall Fire in Russia Leaves at Least 64 Dead," 26 Mar. 2018 According to the agency, changing the rule could save up to $100 million per year and leave 140 million tons of coal ash to state regulations. Newsweek, "U.S. Soldier Found Dead At South Korea Army Base," 14 Mar. 2018

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.

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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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Dictionary Entries near coal






coal ball

coal black

Phrases Related to coal

carry/take coals to Newcastle

Statistics for coal

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for coal

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

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More Definitions for coal



English Language Learners Definition of coal

: a black or brownish-black hard substance within the earth that is used as a fuel

: a piece of coal or charcoal especially when burning

: a glowing piece of wood from a fire


\ˈkōl \

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

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Comments on coal

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lying above or upon

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