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

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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 While some versions rely on leaveners, Chou achieves maximum fluff by whipping egg yolks and whites before folding in rice bran oil, sugar, and King Arthur unbleached cake flour. Rachel Karten, Bon Appétit, "How Do I Love Thee, Chinese Sponge Cake? Let Me Count the Layers," 24 Feb. 2020 Add 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 cup chopped yellow onion, ⅔ cup chopped celery, ⅔ cup chopped green bell pepper and 2 tablespoons chopped garlic. Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, azcentral, "How one Phoenix-area chef celebrates her Louisiana roots (and Mardi Gras) with vegan jambalaya," 17 Feb. 2020 Protecting the oil, as Trump has said, is a valid objective. James Longman, ABC News, "For many Kurds, the US is all they have left: Reporter's Notebook," 13 Feb. 2020 Brush both sides of baguette with oil, dividing evenly. Charlyne Mattox, Country Living, "Sliced Radish and Radish Leaf Toasts with Lemon Butter," 11 Feb. 2020 Things were different when Raymond was a master of the oil industry. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Climate activists want former Exxon chief removed from JPMorgan board," 10 Feb. 2020 Draw an analogy between them and the oil industry, casting yourself as the bald eagle. Kristen Radtke, The New Yorker, "Your Milk-Preference Horoscope," 7 Feb. 2020 The economic shocks from the virus -- and the prolonged shutdown of many factories and businesses across China -- are being felt worldwide, with ramifications for the global oil industry and automakers. James Griffiths, CNN, "Wuhan coronavirus whistleblower doctor dies as confirmed cases top 30,000," 6 Feb. 2020 That’s especially true after president Donald Trump granted more waivers to refiners to exempt them from the RFS—a favor to the oil industry that has Iowa farmers upset. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "The Iowa caucus debacle could lead to better energy policy," 4 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The body, made of curly birch wood, displays a nuanced texture that deepens when oiled properly, part of the care regimen. Sunset Staff, Sunset Magazine, "A Can’t-Miss Nature Film, Music-Fueled Haircuts, and More Things to See and Do in the West This Week," 27 Jan. 2020 Environmental groups have continued to express concerns about oiling along more than 30 miles of shoreline as well as the potential impacts on local wildlife. Nedra Rhone, ajc, "Propeller and rudder removed from sunken cargo ship off Georgia coast," 23 Dec. 2019 Some responded to the outbreak by praying instead of seeking vaccination or treatment, or by administering traditional remedies, such as oiling the red blotchy skin that is a symptom of the disease. The Economist, "The anti-vax movement causes an epidemic in Samoa," 5 Dec. 2019 Bella Hadid however, is all oiled up and thirst trapping with the best of them. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Bella Hadid Just Posted Full Underboob On Instagram," 30 Dec. 2019 Bottom line: This is Avanti’s second year running the Christmas pop-up, so the machine should be well-oiled. Josie Sexton, The Know, "I tried all the Denver Christmas pop-up bars so you don’t have to," 3 Dec. 2019 In Northern California, the utility fielder J.D. Davis would oil up his glove, put it in a paper bag and run it over with a car. Kevin Armstrong, New York Times, "Smash ’Em, Bake ’Em or Sit on ’Em: The Inexact Science of Breaking In Gloves," 27 Sep. 2019 Mills’ life mask, meanwhile, was made by applying wet plaster to the president’s oiled-down face and beard. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Ten Smithsonian Artifacts You Can 3-D Print," 27 Nov. 2019 Carefully slide the fish onto the preheated, oiled grill, on the side opposite the fire. Jess Fleming, Twin Cities, "Grill a whole side of fish for maximum wow factor," 3 July 2019

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

28 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Oil.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oil. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for oil


How to pronounce oil (audio)

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
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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More from Merriam-Webster on oil

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for oil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with oil

Spanish Central: Translation of oil

Nglish: Translation of oil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oil for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oil

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