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

Our region is known for coal, oil, and gas production. Jon Goldin-dubois, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Colorado, and others in the West, lead the way on reducing carbon emissions," 4 June 2019 The Utah plant would replace an existing facility powered with coal, which the DWP aims to stop using entirely by 2025, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the facility by 83%. Emily Alpert Reyes,, "L.A. water and power commission backs plan for natural gas plant," 27 June 2018 But the success of the resolution will depend largely on policies from Washington and on whether energy companies such as Duke are required to transition away from coal to nuclear power, renewables or low-carbon natural gas. Steve Harrison, charlotteobserver, "Charlotte City Council approves sweeping pledge to lower carbon emissions," 25 June 2018 The second wave of Chinese tariffs will come later in the year, targeting another 114 goods worth $16 billion, including chemicals, medical equipment, and energy products like coal, crude oil, and gasoline. Chas Danner, Daily Intelligencer, "China Retaliates With New Tariffs as Trump’s Trade War Escalates," 16 June 2018 The clampdown comes at a time when the solar industry globally is increasingly able to compete toe-to-toe on price with more conventional sources of power generation, such as coal, natural gas and nuclear. The Economist, "Can the solar industry survive without subsidies?," 14 June 2018 As for the immediate future, the researchers note that economic growth is still being fueled more by coal, oil, and gas than renewables. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Wrong way: 2018 global CO₂ emissions tick up again," 6 Dec. 2018 Bost, a union firefighter and grandson of a coal miner, says his election and Trump’s appeal in the area are a continuation of something that’s been happening slowly over the past few decades. Sara Burnett, The Seattle Times, "Democrats try to retake Illinois district won over by Trump," 26 Oct. 2018 Renewables won’t outcompete coal all year round, at least not yet. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Renewables Outproduced Coal Power in the U.S. for the First Time Ever," 2 May 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

7 Jun 2019

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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

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a tendency to relapse

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