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 On the atomic level, thiophene molecules are arranged in a ring including four carbon atoms and a sulfur atom. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "The Curiosity rover found organic molecules on Mars. This is why they're exciting," 6 Mar. 2020 The five-mile trail up the volcano snakes past hissing steam vents and sulfur pots belching yellow clouds that make eyes water. Carl Fincke, Washington Post, "On a remote Russian peninsula, a vodka-fueled ad�ven�ture," 6 Mar. 2020 When wood reaches its flashpoint, the heat exorcises impurities like water vapor, sulfur compounds, and nitrogen compounds, leaving essentially pure carbon behind—charcoal. Vince Guerrieri, Popular Mechanics, "Why Fire Is the Greatest Tool of All Time," 17 Feb. 2020 To prevent arcing, the field emission guns that produce the electrons are suffused in sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas, which snuffs out sparks. Eric Hand, Science | AAAS, "‘We need a people’s cryo-EM.’ Scientists hope to bring revolutionary microscope to the masses," 23 Jan. 2020 On the flip side, sulfur is very cheap and fairly easy to work with. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Will lithium-sulfur batteries be in our future?," 10 Jan. 2020 The normal way to halt a fermentation would be to add a bunch of sulfur to a wine, killing off the yeast. Esther Mobley,, "It’s not wine. It’s sparkling grape juice, and it’s delicious," 27 Feb. 2020 Esthetician and skin-care expert Renée Rouleau recommends using a mask with ingredients like sulfur, camphor, salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and clay, like her Rapid Response Detox Masque ($65.50). Phillip Picardi, Teen Vogue, "How to Get Rid of Bacne: 15 Dermatologist-Approved Tips," 5 Feb. 2020 Sometimes, however, bacteria in your large intestine release gases that include sulfur, which is the culprit behind the unpleasant odor associated with passing gas, according to Hopkins Medicine. Amy Marturana Winderl, SELF, "6 Common Causes of Excessive Gas," 30 Dec. 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

29 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sulfur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 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

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