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

Synonyms for oil

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This shampoo works by removing buildup from the scalp such as oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and grime. The Salt Lake Tribune, 23 May 2022 It’s formulated with moisturizing grapeseed oil and resveratrol, a free-radical fighting antioxidant. April Franzino, Good Housekeeping, 23 May 2022 Increasingly, supply chain attacks and assaults on critical infrastructure like oil, water and electricity facilities have risen to prominence. Tim Liu, Forbes, 23 May 2022 Meanwhile, the net worth of their peers in the oil, gas and coal sectors jumped by $53 billion, or 24%, since 2020, after adjusting for inflation. Tami Luhby, CNN, 22 May 2022 One is a huge uptick in available oil, gas and renewable energy, which most analysts say is years away. Evan Halper, Washington Post, 20 May 2022 This one from Violette, Avec Amour, is part oil, part perfume. Jihan Forbes, Allure, 20 May 2022 Both were typical—oil, filter, inspections—at 5000-mile intervals. K.c. Colwell, Car and Driver, 20 May 2022 The unrest started after the government cut subsidies on essential food items such as cooking oil, eggs and milk last Wednesday. Somayeh Malekian, ABC News, 18 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb This makes broad spectrum oil a good choice for those who want the benefits of CBD without the risk of THC. The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 May 2022 Why can oil move down but wholesale gas prices move up? Irina Ivanova, CBS News, 13 May 2022 How quickly can oil from the reserve enter the market? NBC News, 1 Apr. 2022 Didn't drip down, didn't oil up, and really helped to keep sun exposure to a minimum. Susan Brickell, Health.com, 13 May 2021 Simply oil your measuring spoons and cups before measuring sticky ingredients. Bon Appétit, 14 Mar. 2022 Global markets for everything from stocks to oil to wheat are recording some of the most extreme price swings in decades. WSJ, 28 Feb. 2022 The disruption to oil in particular is concerning to investors. Cnn Business, CNN, 28 Feb. 2022 For example, not only can oil suffocate animals, but its presence on bird feathers can prevent them from flying. Priya Shukla, Forbes, 3 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About oil

Time Traveler for oil

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for oil

Last Updated

25 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Oil.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oil. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for oil


\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on oil

Nglish: Translation of oil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oil for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oil


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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