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[met-l] /ˈmɛt l/
any of a class of elementary substances, as gold, silver, or copper, all of which are crystalline when solid and many of which are characterized by opacity, ductility, conductivity, and a unique luster when freshly fractured.
  1. such a substance in its pure state, as distinguished from alloys.
  2. an element yielding positively charged ions in aqueous solutions of its salts.
an alloy or mixture composed wholly or partly of such substances, as brass.
an object made of metal.
formative material; stuff.
  1. type metal.
  2. the state of being set in type.
molten glass in the pot or melting tank.
British. road metal.
verb (used with object), metaled, metaling or (especially British) metalled, metalling.
to furnish or cover with metal.
British. to pave or surface (a road) with broken stone.
Origin of metal
1250-1300; Middle English (< Old French) < Latin metallum quarry, metal < Greek métallon mine, quarry, metal
Related forms
metallike, adjective
unmetaled, adjective
unmetalled, adjective
Can be confused
medal, meddle, metal, mettle.

metal. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for metal


  1. any of a number of chemical elements, such as iron or copper, that are often lustrous ductile solids, have basic oxides, form positive ions, and are good conductors of heat and electricity
  2. an alloy, such as brass or steel, containing one or more of these elements
(printing) type made of metal
the substance of glass in a molten state or as the finished product
short for road metal
(informal) short for heavy metal (sense 1)
  1. the total weight of projectiles that can be shot by a ship's guns at any one time
  2. the total weight or number of a ship's guns
(astronomy) Also called heavy element. any element heavier than helium
(heraldry) gold or silver
(pl) the rails of a railway
made of metal
verb (transitive) -als, -alling, -alled (US) -als, -aling, -aled
to fit or cover with metal
to make or mend (a road) with road metal
Derived Forms
metal-like, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Latin metallum mine, product of a mine, from Greek metallon


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 metal

mid-13c., from Old French metal "metal; material, substance, stuff" (12c.), from Latin metallum "metal; mine, quarry, mineral, what is got by mining," from Greek metallon "metal, ore" (senses only in post-classical texts; originally "mine, quarry, pit"), probably from metalleuein "to mine, to quarry," of unknown origin, but related somehow to metallan "to seek after." Cf. Greek metalleutes "a miner," metalleia "a searching for metals, mining."


late 14c., from metal (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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metal in Medicine

metal met·al (mět'l)

  1. Any of a category of electropositive elements that usually reflect light, are generally good conductors of heat and electricity, and can be melted or fused, hammered into thin sheets, or drawn into wires. Typical metals form salts with nonmetals, basic oxides with oxygen, and alloys with one another.

  2. An alloy of two or more metallic elements.

  3. An object made of metal.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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metal in Science
  1. Any of a large group of chemical elements, including iron, gold, copper, lead, and magnesium, that readily become cations and form ionic bonds, having relatively free valence electrons (electrons in the outer shells). Metals are generally good conductors of electricity because of the freedom of their valence electrons. Metals generally conduct heat well, and in solid form are relatively malleable and ductile compared to other solids. They are usually shiny and opaque. All metals except mercury are solid at room temperature.

  2. An alloy, such as steel or bronze, made of two or more metals.

  3. In astronomy, any atom except hydrogen and helium.

  4. Small stones or gravel, mixed with tar to form tarmac for the surfacing of roads.

Our Living Language  : Most metallic elements are lustrous or colorful solids that are good conductors of heat and electricity, and readily form ionic bonds with other elements. Many of their properties are due to the fact that their outermost electrons, called valence electrons, are not tightly bound to the nucleus. For instance, most metals form ionic bonds easily because they readily give up valence electrons to other atoms, thereby becoming positive ions (cations). The electrical conductivity of metals also stems from the relative freedom of valence electrons. In a substance composed of metals, the atoms are in a virtual "sea" of valence electrons that readily jump from atom to atom in the presence of an electric potential, creating electric current. With the exception of hydrogen, which behaves like a metal only at very high pressures, the elements that appear in the left-hand column of the Periodic Table are called alkali metals. Alkali metals, such as sodium and potassium, have only one electron in their outermost shell, and are chemically very reactive. (Hydrogen is exceptional in that, although it is highly reactive, its other metallic properties are manifest only at very high pressures.) Metals farther toward the right side of the Periodic Table, such as tin and lead, have more electrons in their outermost shell, and are not as reactive. The somewhat reactive elements that fall between the two extremes are the transition elements, such as iron, copper, tungsten, and silver. In most atoms, inner electron shells must be maximally occupied by electrons before an outer shell will accept electrons, but many transition elements have electron gaps in the shell just inside the valence shell. This configuration leads to a wide variety of available energy levels for electrons to move about in, so in the presence of electromagnetic radiation such as light, a variety of frequencies are readily emitted or absorbed. Thus transition metals tend to be very colorful, and each contributes different colors to different compounds.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for metal



heavy metal


To play loudly amplified rock and roll music: Nobody can metal like Blue Oyster Cult (1973+)

Related Terms

heavy metal, put the pedal to the metal

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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