noun, often attributive
\ ˈȯi(-ə)l How to pronounce oil (audio) \

Definition of oil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : any of numerous unctuous combustible substances that are liquid or can be liquefied easily on warming, are soluble in ether but not in water, and leave a greasy stain on paper or cloth
b(1) : petroleum
(2) : the petroleum industry
2 : a substance (such as a cosmetic preparation) of oily consistency bath oil
3a : an oil color used by an artist
b : a painting done in oil colors
4 : unctuous or flattering speech


oiled; oiling; oils

Definition of oil (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to smear, rub over, furnish, or lubricate with oil

intransitive verb

: to take on fuel oil
oil the hand or oil the palm
: bribe, tip

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Synonyms for oil

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of oil in a Sentence

Noun The price of crude oil is expected to rise. We heat our house with oil. A little bit of oil will help lubricate the chain. Add a little oil to the pan and stir-fry the onions. The dressing is made with oil, vinegar, and a pinch of herbs. Verb He oiled the bearings of the machine. if you oil the machinery on a regular basis, it will operate more efficiently
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, zest, honey, salt and pepper. Washington Post, "Loaded with two types of peas, radishes and mint, this lemony salad sings spring," 15 Apr. 2021 Expectant mothers can also take advantage of the spa's PreNatal Massage treatment, which includes warm, stress relieving oil with essence of sweet almond and macadamia. Andrea Romano, Travel + Leisure, "These Mother’s Day-themed Activities in Puerto Rico Are the Best Way to Tell Your Mom You Love Her," 15 Apr. 2021 Guyana literally struck oil, and its percentage change in real GDP per capita in 2020 soared by a stunning 25.8 percent. Steve H. Hanke, National Review, "Hanke’s 2020 Misery Index: Who’s Miserable and Who’s Happy?," 14 Apr. 2021 In a medium skillet, heat the oil and garlic together over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to turn golden. Beth Dooley Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Use leftover bread to make 'Poor Man's Parmesan'," 14 Apr. 2021 One of my initial skin care concerns was dull skin, but this oil keeps that at bay by using the antioxidant and omega properties in superberries like acai, maqui, prickly pear and goji. Rebecca Rodriguez, NBC News, "Why one shopping writer uses Youth to the People for all her skin care needs," 14 Apr. 2021 Add cod liver oil to homemade salad dressing to get your daily dose. Stefani Sassos, Ms, Rdn, Cso, Good Housekeeping, "8 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D," 13 Apr. 2021 Put the pieces into a large bowl, add the oil and toss to coat evenly. Janelle Bitker, San Francisco Chronicle, "Vegan cookbook from Wildseed chef in San Francisco gets creative. Here are 5 tips," 12 Apr. 2021 Unlike the grid in Texas that failed catastrophically in February, New York’s grid has backstops, including connections to neighboring states and a network of generators that can switch to burning oil if there is a shortage of natural gas. New York Times, "Indian Point Is Shutting Down. That Means More Fossil Fuel.," 12 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb How will oil Majors make the transition to offshore wind? Wood Mackenzie, Forbes, "Why Are Oil Majors Investing In Offshore Wind?," 6 Apr. 2021 If baking in popover or muffin pans, butter or oil the pans first, then fill 1/2 to 2/3 full, and bake about 40 minutes, checking as above. Beth Segal, cleveland, "Popovers! Perfect for Passover and beyond," 17 Mar. 2021 Line the bottom with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper. BostonGlobe.com, "Recipe: Almond torte is a tender, orange-scented cake for the Passover table," 23 Mar. 2021 Prices for bonds tied to oil major Petróleo Brasileiro SA fell Monday after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro moved to replace the company’s chief executive. Sebastian Pellejero, WSJ, "Conflict at Petrobras Hits Bond Prices," 22 Feb. 2021 Drain your pasta but remember not to rinse it or oil it. Will Packwood, San Antonio Express-News, "Make classic lasagna Bolognese your love language this Valentine's Day," 3 Feb. 2021 Canada hopes to oil the wheels on the Keystone XL pipeline despite President-elect Joe Biden's stated opposition to it. Carly Roman, Washington Examiner, "Canada calls on Biden not to cancel Keystone XL pipeline," 19 Jan. 2021 Spray or oil the pan, then press in the parchment paper so that there’s overhang on the two long sides. Washington Post, "A black and white sesame cake made for all-day snacking," 15 Dec. 2020 It’s about technology, and whether or not oil demand responds to new technologies the way coal is now responding to solar: with structural decline. Nathaniel Bullard, Bloomberg.com, "The Future of Energy Is About Technology, Not Fossil Fuels," 15 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oil.' 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 oil


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for oil


Middle English oile, from Anglo-French, from Latin oleum olive oil, from Greek elaion, from elaia olive

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Time Traveler for oil

Time Traveler

The first known use of oil was in the 13th century

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Statistics for oil

Last Updated

19 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oil.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oil. Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for oil



English Language Learners Definition of oil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a thick, black liquid that comes from the ground and that is used in making various products (such as gasoline)
: a type of oil that is used as a fuel to produce heat or light
: a type of oil that makes the different parts in an engine, machine, etc., run smoothly



English Language Learners Definition of oil (Entry 2 of 2)

: to put oil in or on (something)


\ ˈȯil How to pronounce oil (audio) \

Kids Definition of oil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of numerous greasy usually liquid substances from plant, animal, or mineral sources that do not dissolve in water and are used especially as lubricants, fuels, and food
2 : petroleum
3 : paint made of pigments and oil
4 : a painting done in oils


oiled; oiling

Kids Definition of oil (Entry 2 of 2)

: to rub on or lubricate with a greasy substance


\ ˈȯi(ə)l How to pronounce oil (audio) \

Medical Definition of oil

1 : any of numerous unctuous combustible substances that are liquid or can be liquefied easily on warming, are soluble in ether but not in water, and leave a greasy stain on paper or cloth — see essential oil, fatty oil, volatile oil
2 : a substance (as a cosmetic preparation) of oily consistency bath oil

Other Words from oil

oil adjective

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Comments on oil

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