noun, often attributive
\ˈȯi(-ə)l \

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



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

canvas (also canvass), oil painting, painting

Synonyms: Verb

grease, lubricate, slick, wax

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Examples of oil in a Sentence


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.


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

Among the top importers of Iranian oil are China, India, Turkey and South Korea. Washington Post, "US official links economic protests in Iran to sanctions," 12 July 2018 Analysts estimated that those ports could contribute approximately 700,000 barrels of oil a day to the global market. David Hodari, WSJ, "Oil Prices Mixed On Libya Supply, Trade Concerns," 12 July 2018 Among the top importers of Iranian oil are China, India, Turkey and South Korea. Matthew Lee, The Seattle Times, "Pompeo talks tough on Iran while visiting the Emirates," 10 July 2018 Meanwhile, the price of a barrel of crude oil recently hit $72.94, up 62% in just one year. Eric Newcomer, latimes.com, "Why Silicon Valley doesn't mind rising gas prices," 6 July 2018 Control can consist of applying either a horticultural oil or natural spinosad-containing insecticide. Tom Maccubbin, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Caterpillar invasion isn't end for healthy tree," 14 July 2018 Mukesh Ambani, the 61-year-old force behind Reliance Industries Ltd., the oil-to-telecom behemoth, has eclipsed the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. founder — at least for now. Fortune, "8 Things to Know About Mukesh Ambani, Asia's Newest Richest Man," 13 July 2018 Not content with the existing controversy, Trump has decided to throw more oil into the fire in an inflammatory interview with The Sun. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Donald Trump humiliates Theresa May at a moment of vulnerability.," 13 July 2018 Blot, Then Set First, sop up excess oil with blotting papers. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "6 Ways to Make Your Foundation Look Like a Second Skin," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Pita Taufatofua, who marched shirtless and oiled-up during the Opening Ceremony after doing the same thing at 2016 Summer Olympics, brushed aside about a question about how his fame has impacted his prospects on Valentine’s Day. Josh Peter, USA TODAY, "Tonga flag bearer says he's not capitalizing on sex symbol status at Olympics," 14 Feb. 2018 Her ears were erect; the skin behind them was as soft as an ancient and well-oiled baseball mitt. Jason Florio, Smithsonian, "The Dangerous Work of Relocating 5,000-Pound Rhinos," 22 May 2018 Then oil your hands again and play the piano on the soft dough, creating dimples all over, an inch apart or so. Alex Beggs, Bon Appetit, "Be a Person Who Makes Focaccia on the Regular," 6 Mar. 2018 Transfer pizza dough to hot grill grate, oiled side down, and cook, covered, until top begins to bubble and bottom is crisp, about 2 minutes. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "BBQ Italian Sausage and Pepper Pie," 28 July 2017 While their midfield may not contain such stellar names, the engine room is nonetheless a capable and well-oiled machine. SI.com, "How Far Can Liverpool Superstar Mohamed Salah Carry the Pharoahs at the FIFA World Cup?," 9 May 2018 Place calzones, oiled side down, on griddle and cook until deeply browned, pressing gently with a spatula to create contact with griddle, about 5 minutes. Ignacio Mattos, Bon Appetit, "Breakfast Calzones," 23 Apr. 2018 But his success has been oiled by a healthy squirt of good luck. The Economist, "Social democracy is floundering everywhere in Europe, except Portugal," 12 Apr. 2018 In December's major federal tax legislation, an amendment bolstered by Alaska's congressional delegation — and ferried through by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Energy Committee — opened the coastal plain of ANWR to oil exploration. Erica Martinson, Anchorage Daily News, "Native corporations would get share of ANWR oil revenues under federal budget amendment," 12 June 2018

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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Statistics for oil

Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for oil

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

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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 \

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 \

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

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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