spontaneous combustion


Definition of spontaneous combustion

: self-ignition of combustible material through chemical action (such as oxidation) of its constituents

called also spontaneous ignition

Examples of spontaneous combustion in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

When the two chemicals came into contact with one another, there was a spontaneous combustion reaction that would propel the ascent module off of the descent module and into lunar orbit. Alex Hollings, Popular Mechanics, "The Art of the Return Trip: How NASA Got Apollo 11 Home," 24 July 2019 In February, the 3,865-square-foot home was damaged by a freak fire, caused by spontaneous combustion of a pile of dead grass, in which luckily nobody was hurt, Mary Wise of Keller Williams Central tells CountryLiving.com. Jenae Sitzes, Country Living, "The Surprising Reason a Fire-Damaged House Was the Most Popular Home in Texas Real Estate," 28 Apr. 2017 Much of the IndyDrum plant was heavily damaged in a May 2014 fire caused by spontaneous combustion of chemicals that had been mixed with sawdust used to clean drums. Rick Barrett, USA TODAY, "Drum refurbishing plant, where worker safety problems were cited, closes suddenly," 20 Dec. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spontaneous combustion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of spontaneous combustion

1795, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about spontaneous combustion

Statistics for spontaneous combustion

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spontaneous combustion

The first known use of spontaneous combustion was in 1795

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for spontaneous combustion

spontaneous combustion


English Language Learners Definition of spontaneous combustion

technical : burning that is caused by chemical actions inside of something rather than by heat from the outside

spontaneous combustion


Kids Definition of spontaneous combustion

: a bursting of material into flame from the heat produced within itself through chemical action

More from Merriam-Webster on spontaneous combustion

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about spontaneous combustion

Comments on spontaneous combustion

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


suitable to be imparted to the public

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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