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


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

Steyer made a great deal of money throughout Asia, trafficking in huge coal mines and plants. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Democrats’ Debate Cowardice, Hypocrisy, and Nuttiness," 6 Aug. 2019 Authorities are trying to rescue a worker who fell down an elevator shaft following a methane gas explosion Wednesday afternoon at a coal mine in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Ben Tobin, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky coal mine explosion knocks worker down 380-foot shaft," 2 Aug. 2019 Delaney Cain’s forebears founded the Black Diamond coal mine in Lafayette. Joanne Davidson, The Denver Post, "Central City Flower Girls have represented Colorado’s rich history for 87 years," 1 Aug. 2019 Emissions hotspots—from coal mines near Pittsburgh and farmland in the state’s southeast—clearly jumped out. Jeremy Hsu, Scientific American, "Private Space Race Targets Greenhouse Gas Emitters," 31 July 2019 Flint was definitely the canary in the coal mine, and this is more about the states and communities that have been hit hard by the shift in the economy. Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, "What Michigan voters want to hear from Democratic presidential debate candidates," 28 July 2019 The Flathead Beacon reports that leaders in Libby, Troy and Eureka wrote to Gov. Steve Bullock that their economies depend on the water quality of rivers and lakes that are being compromised by pollution from British Columbia coal mines. USA TODAY, "Big butter sculpture, sweet guitar, owl released: News from around our 50 states," 24 July 2019 Chris, a West Virginia native, began working in the state’s coal mines at age 22, CNN reported. Karen Mizoguchi,, "Billionaire Chris Cline & Daughter Kameron Remembered at Service a Week After Helicopter Crash," 12 July 2019 His story starts in the murky coal mines of Lanarkshire back in the 1930s., "Jock Stein: The Man Who Guided Celtic to Historic Heights & Mentored Sir Alex Ferguson," 10 July 2019

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

Statistics for coal

Last Updated

16 Aug 2019

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
US : a glowing piece of wood from a fire


\ 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on coal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with coal

Spanish Central: Translation of coal

Nglish: Translation of coal for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on coal

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


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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