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 sulphury (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 Fat helps protect against unpleasant sulfur compounds activated by the release of the onions’ water. Bill St. John, The Denver Post, "Get Cooking: French onion soup takes time," 6 Nov. 2019 Other mammoths died due to habitat loss or lack of food, but their samples showed the amount of sulfur in Wrangel mammoths' bones intensified toward the end of their existence. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "The last woolly mammoth died 4,000 years ago on an island in the Arctic -- and that's significant," 8 Oct. 2019 Scuba diving, cycling, kayaking and other water sports are popular activities - and the rainforest, botanical gardens, a semiactive volcano and some sulfur springs are nearby. Danielle Braff, Houston Chronicle, "10 of the world's most beautiful places to unplug," 27 Dec. 2019 And, even more oddly, there was sulfur on the surface of the white dwarf as well. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "White dwarf star covering itself with the atmosphere of a hot Neptune," 5 Dec. 2019 Today, most refiners use hydrogen to separate contaminants like sulfur in the production of gasoline and diesel. Benjamin Storrow, Scientific American, "Can A Big Oil Company Go Carbon-Free?," 6 Dec. 2019 Take the waters at Furnas, São Miguel The small town of Furnas is in the crater of a volcano that spits, hisses, and exhales sulfur. Trish Lorenz, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Explore the Azores, Island by Island," 19 Nov. 2019 Because the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere contains trace amounts of sulfur, crystals quickly form on normal electronic components. Wired, "NASA Wants to Send a Probe to the Hellish Surface of Venus," 23 Oct. 2019 Scientists were surprised not to find traces of sulfur in the core. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "The Terrifying Final Hours of the Dinosaurs' Reign on Earth," 10 Sep. 2019

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

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sulfur.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for sulfur


How to pronounce sulfur (audio)

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 sulphur (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

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More from Merriam-Webster on sulfur

Spanish Central: Translation of sulfur

Nglish: Translation of sulfur for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on sulfur

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


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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