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 Method and Madness once used Tokaji casks that were too dry and had a slight sulfur note. John Kell, Fortune, "Whiskey makers are bending the rules for barrel-aging, signaling a new wave for bourbon," 29 Mar. 2020 The plant can take in almost any type of plastic and convert it into ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and industrial wax. London Gibson, Indianapolis Star, "Brightmark partnership will help RecycleForce to expand its mission to help formerly incarcerated," 16 Jan. 2020 Wolverine Fuels owns and operates three coal mines in Utah and produces nearly 11 million tons of high-heat-content, low-sulfur thermal coal. Sarah Ravani,, "Richmond bans coal shipments from port despite threats of lawsuits," 15 Jan. 2020 Its fumaroles are active enough that visitors wear gas masks to avoid breathing the acrid sulfur gas. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "New Zealand volcano erupts, killing tourists on the island," 9 Dec. 2019 At the same time, shale oil is much lighter and lower in sulfur compared with supply from the Persian Gulf, and not ideal for most American refineries. Sheela Tobben,, "Despite Trump’s Claim, the U.S. Still Needs Some Middle East Oil," 5 May 2020 Wham-O claimed the toy was made of Zectron, an atomic-age label for synthetic rubber that was cured with sulfur and compression molded at high temperatures. New York Times, "How a Bouncy Ball Changed the Way I See the World," 3 Apr. 2020 Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and other foreign merchants dwelled in their own prosperous quarter, trading spices, textiles, opium, iron, tobacco, sulfur and pepper for rice and ivory. Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian, "The Hidden City of Myanmar," 21 Nov. 2019 Some of this oxygen returns to the planet’s surface through chemical reactions with metals, sulfur and other compounds in Earth’s crust. The Conversation,, "Amazon fires are alarming -- but, no, they won’t deplete Earth’s oxygen: The Conversation," 26 Aug. 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

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sulfur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 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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