cru·ci·ble | \ ˈkrü-sə-bəl \

Definition of crucible 

1 : a vessel of a very refractory (see refractory entry 1 sense 3) material (such as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat

2 : a severe test He's ready to face the crucible of the Olympics.

3 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development … conditioned by having grown up within the crucible of Chinatown … —Tom Wolfe His character was formed in the crucible of war.

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for crucible


cross, fire, gauntlet (also gantlet), ordeal, trial

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

Crucible looks like it should be closely related to the Latin combining form "cruc-" ("cross"), but it isn't. It was forged from the Medieval Latin crucibulum, a noun for an earthen pot used to melt metals, and in English it first referred to a vessel of a very heat-resistant material (such as porcelain) used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat. But the resemblance between cruc- and crucible probably encouraged people to start using "crucible" to mean "a severe trial." That sense is synonymous with one meaning of "cross," a word that is related to "cruc-." The newest sense of "crucible" ("a situation in which great changes take place" - as in "forged in the crucible of war") recalls the fire and heat that would be encountered in the original heat-resistant pot.

Examples of crucible in a Sentence

He's ready to face the crucible of the Olympics. His character was formed in the crucible of war.

Recent Examples on the Web

The debate over that conflict was the crucible in which IfNotNow was born. Abraham Riesman, Daily Intelligencer, "Can the young activists of IfNotNow change the conversation about Israel and the Palestinians, or will their contradictions hold them back?," 12 July 2018 To hear the orchestra tell it, the tour was a crucible with some important gains immediately apparent, and others perhaps to come. Peter Dobrin,, "The Philadelphia Orchestra's tour of Europe and Israel is done: What did we learn?," 15 June 2018 For Pratt, Mars serves as the crucible in which NASA’s future planetary protection policies are being forged. Leonard David, Scientific American, "As Space Becomes a Busy Place, NASA Bolsters Its Planet-Contamination Police," 3 July 2018 On Monday night, that sad fate befell the Rockets, who disintegrated in the crucible of the postseason. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "Over, Easy: A Basketball Aficionado Foresees the Warriors’ Surge Past the Rockets," 29 May 2018 Look no further than this season’s Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets to appreciate the outsize impact switching can have in the crucible of the conference finals. Jeremy Woo,, "NBA Draft Debates: Marvin Bagley III, Mohamed Bamba or Jaren Jackson Jr?," 25 May 2018 Rhodes was also a Deputy National Security Adviser, who saw his liberal interventionist leanings tested amid the crucible of the Arab Spring. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "A Decade at Obama’s Side: An Interview With Ben Rhodes," 17 June 2018 And the crucible that is the southeastern Wisconsin SCTP conference eventually changed her attitude about competition. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: This 20-year-old shooter from Waterford aims to be one of the best in the world," 16 June 2018 Russia headed into the curtainraiser at the 80,000-capacity Luzhniki, the crucible of Russian and Soviet sport, without a victory in over eight months and ranked a lowly 70th in the world. Martyn Wood,, "Russia thrash Saudi Arabia in World Cup opening match," 14 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of crucible

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for crucible

Middle English corusible, from Medieval Latin crucibulum earthen pot for melting metals

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about crucible

Listen to Our Podcast about crucible

Statistics for crucible

Last Updated

19 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for crucible

The first known use of crucible was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for crucible



English Language Learners Definition of crucible

: a pot in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted

: a difficult test or challenge

: a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions


cru·ci·ble | \ ˈkrü-sə-bəl \

Kids Definition of crucible

: a pot in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted


cru·ci·ble | \ ˈkrü-sə-bəl \

Medical Definition of crucible 

: a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on crucible

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


a magnificent or impressive array

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!