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



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

Tumbleweeds can also disturb oil and gas pads, spread forest fires and cause traffic accidents. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Monster Invasive Tumbleweed Is Outgrowing Its Parent Species," 9 Sep. 2019 But officials in Gibraltar defied the U.S. legal move and released the oil tanker on Aug. 16. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "What a multi-million dollar 'bribe' for oil supertanker says about Trump’s Iran policy," 8 Sep. 2019 Tensions between the two countries have risen in recent months that have seen mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East. NBC News, "Iran breaches nuclear deal again, warns 'not much time left' to save agreement," 7 Sep. 2019 That's largely why the U.S. is producing record volumes of crude oil and natural gas. Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle, "Total rig count falls below 900 for first time since 2017," 6 Sep. 2019 Under the current rules, oil and gas operations are required to install controls that keep methane gas from leaking out of their equipment. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "What Is Methane, Anyway?," 29 Aug. 2019 Hackers working for the US government wiped out a database and computer systems that Iran’s paramilitary arm used to plan attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "US hack attack hobbles Iran’s ability to target oil tankers, NYT says," 28 Aug. 2019 This buried plant matter at the bottom of the ocean is the source of oil and gas. Scott Denning, Scientific American, "Destructive Amazon Fires Do Not Threaten Earth’s Oxygen, Expert Says," 27 Aug. 2019 This buried plant matter at the bottom of the ocean is the source of oil and gas. The Conversation, oregonlive.com, "Amazon fires are alarming -- but, no, they won’t deplete Earth’s oxygen: The Conversation," 26 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Able to operate from the left wing or just behind the front three, his creativity would add an extra dimension to a Liverpool midfield that is well-oiled but lacks a little dynamism. SI.com, "Philippe Coutinho: 5 Reasons Liverpool Should Have Pursued a Loan Move for Their Former Star," 10 Aug. 2019 In November, Mark posted a pic of himself from Riverdale all oiled up, and Kelly couldn't resist. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Fans Freak Out After Kelly Ripa Writes Sexy 'Riverdale' Comment on Mark Consuelos’ Instagram," 31 Jan. 2019 Denver has already tried other geese management tactics included oiling their eggs, spraying repellants and creating visual barriers to discourage geese from nesting. Michelle Lou, CNN, "Denver is rounding up its Canada geese -- to turn them into food for the needy," 2 July 2019 Hence, for those same thousands of years, methods of curing them (drying, salting, washing, oiling) have fermented out most of the bitterness. Bill St. John, The Denver Post, "Marinating olives, Sicilian style and simply," 12 June 2019 Each hog gets an application of Martin’s spice blend, and their skins are salted and oiled. Eric Velasco, al.com, "Meet the crew who makes Birmingham’s barbecue," 3 June 2019 Lightly oil a large (10-by-15-inch) glass or metal baking dish. Arrange chicken, skin-side down, in dish. Adina Steiman, WSJ, "Eat Like a Model (And Still Be Satisfied)," 13 Sep. 2018 Dressed in a suit with pink tie, pocket handkerchief and sporting long hair, Gilfry seemed a kind of oily Elmer Gantry, further oiled by Aucoin's busily ingratiating chamber orchestra accompaniment. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "Walt Whitman's operatic America in 'Crossing' gets its West Coast premiere," 27 May 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

12 Sep 2019

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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 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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More from Merriam-Webster on oil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with oil

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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

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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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