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 The particulates contained carbon, oxygen, sulfur, and potassium that matched the chemical make-up of smoke samples taken from below the clouds. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Sep. 2021 There are also masks, like Soft Services’ new body breakout-fighting Clearing Duo, comprised of a clay mask laced with sulfur, salicylic acid, zinc PCA, and niacinamide and a 1% salicylic acid acne mist for treatment on the go. Lauren Valent, Vogue, 12 Aug. 2021 Whereas some natural wines are made with small amounts of sulfur, a preservative, and other minor interventions, zero-zero wines are characterized by a commitment to absolutely no additions at all. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Aug. 2021 The instructor worked through the basic elements familiar to any Ag 101 course — nitrogen, sulfur, potassium — and how each was necessary and beneficial for the soil of their coffee plants. New York Times, 11 Aug. 2021 For new vegetable gardens, add lime (to increase pH) and sulfur (to lower pH) in the fall to give the material time to change the soil chemistry. oregonlive, 26 July 2021 The key dietary nutrients for collagen production include chromium, copper and zinc, Omega-3, silica, sulfur, vitamin C, iron, threonine, proline, and lysine—all of which are found in The Beauty Chef’s Collagen Inner Beauty Boost. April Long, Town & Country, 4 July 2021 At the end of their life cycles, stars explode, dispersing carbon, silicon, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, and iron into space, enriching the hydrogen clouds from which the next generation of stars eventually forms. Priyamvada Natarajan, The New York Review of Books, 15 June 2021 There’s no shortage of acne treatments on the market, but Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion – despite launching way back in 1967 – firmly remains the gold standard with a proprietary blend of salicylic acid, calamine, and sulfur. Katie Chang, Forbes, 31 Aug. 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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Dictionary Entries Near sulfur

sulfoxylic acid



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Statistics for sulfur

Last Updated

20 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sulfur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for sulfur



English Language Learners Definition of sulfur

: 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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