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[kohl] /koʊl/
a black or dark-brown combustible mineral substance consisting of carbonized vegetable matter, used as a fuel.
a piece of glowing, charred, or burned wood or other combustible substance.
charcoal (def 1).
verb (used with object)
to burn to coal or charcoal.
to provide with coal.
verb (used without object)
to take in coal for fuel.
heap coals of fire on someone's head, to repay evil with good in order to make one's enemy repent.
rake / haul / drag / call / take over the coals, to reprimand; scold:
They were raked over the coals for turning out slipshod work.
Origin of coal
before 900; Middle English cole, Old English col; cognate with Dutch kool, German Kohle, Old Norse kol
Related forms
coalless, adjective
Can be confused
coal, koel, kohl. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for coal


  1. a combustible compact black or dark-brown carbonaceous rock formed from compaction of layers of partially decomposed vegetation: a fuel and a source of coke, coal gas, and coal tar See also anthracite, bituminous coal, lignite, peat1
  2. (as modifier): coal cellar, coal merchant, coal mine, coal dust
one or more lumps of coal
short for charcoal
coals to Newcastle, something supplied where it is already plentiful
haul someone over the coals, to reprimand someone
to take in, provide with, or turn into coal
Derived Forms
coaly, adjective
Word Origin
Old English col; related to Old Norse kol, Old High German kolo, Old Irish gūal
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for coal

Old English col "charcoal, live coal," from Proto-Germanic *kula(n) (cf. Old Frisian kole, Middle Dutch cole, Dutch kool, Old High German chol, German Kohle, Old Norse kol), from PIE root *g(e)u-lo- "live coal" (cf. Irish gual "coal").

Meaning "mineral consisting of fossilized carbon" is from mid-13c. First mentioned (370 B.C.E.) by Theophrastus in his treatise "On Stones" under the name lithos anthrakos (see anthrax). Traditionally good luck, coal was given as a New Year's gift in England, said to guarantee a warm hearth for the coming year. The phrase drag (or rake) over the coals was a reference to the treatment meted out to heretics by Christians. To carry coals "do dirty work," also "submit to insult" is from 1520s. To carry coals to Newcastle (c.1600) Anglicizes Greek glauk eis Athenas "owls to Athens."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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coal in Science
A dark-brown to black solid substance formed from the compaction and hardening of fossilized plant parts in the presence of water and in the absence of air. Carbonaceous material accounts for more than 50 percent of coal's weight and more than 70 percent of its volume. Coal is widely used as a fuel, and its combustion products are used as raw material for a variety of products including cement, asphalt, wallboard and plastics. See more at anthracite, bituminous coal, lignite.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for coal
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with coal
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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