sul·​fur | \ ˈsəl-fər How to pronounce sulfur (audio) \
variants: or chiefly British sulphur

Definition of sulfur

: a nonmetallic chemical element that is an essential element for all life, resembles oxygen in chemical properties, and is used especially in the form of sulfuric acid to extract phosphates from ores — see Chemical Elements Table

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Other Words from sulfur

sulfury or chiefly British sulphury \ ˈsəl-​fər-​ē How to pronounce sulfur (audio) \ adjective

Is it sulfur or sulphur?: Usage Guide

The spelling sulfur predominates in U.S. technical usage, while both sulfur and sulphur are common in general usage. British usage tends to favor sulphur for all applications. The same pattern is seen in most of the words derived from sulfur.

Examples of sulfur in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Perhaps the first neurons to regenerate are the ones that pick up stronger odors, like sulfur, which is toxic in high concentrations. Anna Kuchment, Dallas News, "‘Like rotting fish’: COVID-19 leaves many survivors holding their noses," 7 May 2021 If the site is not acidic, use soil or agricultural sulfur to adjust the pH following a soil test recommendation. Tom Maccubbin,, "It’s difficult to determine what hybrid tomato plant seeds will produce," 1 May 2021 Organic gardeners can seek out products with Spinosad, sulfur and organic ingredients. Calvin Finch, San Antonio Express-News, "Why hollies are a great choice to replace freeze-damaged xylosma, oleander, boxwood, loquats, dwarf pittosporum and viburnum," 30 Apr. 2021 In a final piece of terrible luck for the dinosaurs (and you), Chicxulub happens to strike an area rich in oil and sulfur. Cody Cassidy, Wired, "How to Survive a Killer Asteroid," 9 Apr. 2021 Gowanus, where aromas of sewage and sulfur and burning rubber waft across streets lined with low-slung warehouses, is now at the center of a fight over the future of New York City. New York Times, "Why This Toxic Canal Zone Is a Litmus Test for N.Y.C. Development," 9 Apr. 2021 It's been 42 years since La Soufrière volcano -- French for sulfur outlet -- erupted. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, "Parts of Caribbean island of St. Vincent unrecognizable after volcano erupts," 24 Apr. 2021 Have your soil tested and make sulfur additions, following the test recommendation. Tom Maccubbin,, "How and when to fertilize amaryllis," 17 Apr. 2021 Currently, the lava flows pose no threat to residents, as the area is mostly uninhabited, although there is potential for sulfur-dioxide and ash pollution. David Bressan, Forbes, "New Fissure With Lava Fountains Opens At Icelandic Volcano," 5 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sulfur.' 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 sulfur

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sulfur

Middle English sulphur brimstone, from Latin sulpur, sulphur, sulfur

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Time Traveler for sulfur

Time Traveler

The first known use of sulfur was in the 14th century

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Statistics for sulfur

Last Updated

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sulfur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for sulfur



English Language Learners Definition of sulfur

chemistry : a yellow chemical element that has a strong, unpleasant odor when it is burned and that is used in making paper, gunpowder, medicine, etc.


variants: also sulphur \ ˈsəl-​fər \

Kids Definition of sulfur

: a yellow chemical element that is found widely in nature and is used in making chemicals and paper


variants: or chiefly British sulphur \ ˈsəl-​fər How to pronounce sulfur (audio) \

Medical Definition of sulfur

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a nonmetallic element that occurs either free or combined especially in sulfides and sulfates, is a constituent of proteins, exists in several allotropic forms including yellow orthorhombic crystals, resembles oxygen chemically but is less active and more acidic, and is used especially in the chemical and paper industries, in rubber vulcanization, and in medicine for treating skin diseases symbol S — see Chemical Elements Table


variants: or chiefly British sulphur

Medical Definition of sulfur (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or resembling sulfur : containing or impregnated with sulfur

More from Merriam-Webster on sulfur

Nglish: Translation of sulfur for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sulfur for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about sulfur

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