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[oil] /ɔɪl/
any of a large class of substances typically unctuous, viscous, combustible, liquid at ordinary temperatures, and soluble in ether or alcohol but not in water: used for anointing, perfuming, lubricating, illuminating, heating, etc.
a substance of this or similar consistency.
refined or crude petroleum.
  1. oil color.
  2. oil painting.
Informal. unctuous hypocrisy; flattery.
an oilskin garment.
Australian and New Zealand Slang. facts or news; information:
good oil.
verb (used with object)
to smear, lubricate, or supply with oil.
to bribe.
to make unctuous or smooth:
to oil his words.
to convert into oil by melting, as butter.
pertaining to or resembling oil.
using oil, especially as a fuel:
an oil furnace.
concerned with the production or use of oil:
an offshore oil rig.
made with oil.
obtained from oil.
pour oil on troubled waters, to attempt to calm a difficult or tense situation, as an argument.
strike oil,
  1. to discover oil, especially to bring in a well.
  2. to have good luck, especially financially; make an important and valuable discovery:
    They struck oil only after years of market research.
Origin of oil
1125-75; Middle English olie, oile < Old French < Latin oleum, olīvum (olive) oil < *oleivum (cf. Deus) < dialectal Greek *élaiwon (Attic élaion), derivative of *elaíwā olive
Related forms
oilless, adjective
oillessness, noun
oillike, adjective
reoil, verb
self-oiling, adjective
unoiling, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for pour oil on troubled waters


any of a number of viscous liquids with a smooth sticky feel. They are usually flammable, insoluble in water, soluble in organic solvents, and are obtained from plants and animals, from mineral deposits, and by synthesis. They are used as lubricants, fuels, perfumes, foodstuffs, and raw materials for chemicals See also essential oil, fixed oil
  1. another name for petroleum
  2. (as modifier): an oil engine, an oil rig
  1. Also called lubricating oil. any of a number of substances usually derived from petroleum and used for lubrication
  2. (in combination): an oilcan, an oilstone
  3. (as modifier): an oil pump
Also called fuel oil. a petroleum product used as a fuel in domestic heating, industrial furnaces, marine engines, etc
  1. paraffin, esp when used as a domestic fuel
  2. (as modifier): an oil lamp, an oil stove
any substance of a consistency resembling that of oil: oil of vitriol
the solvent, usually linseed oil, with which pigments are mixed to make artists' paints
  1. (often pl) oil colour or paint
  2. (as modifier): an oil painting
an oil painting
(Austral & NZ, slang) the good oil, the dinkum oil, facts or news
strike oil
  1. to discover petroleum while drilling for it
  2. (informal) to become very rich or successful
verb (transitive)
to lubricate, smear, polish, etc, with oil or an oily substance
(informal) to bribe (esp in the phrase oil someone's palm)
oil the wheels, to make things run smoothly
Derived Forms
oil-like, adjective
Word Origin
C12: from Old French oile, from Latin oleum (olive) oil, from olea olive tree, from Greek elaiaolive
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 pour oil on troubled waters



late 12c., "olive oil," from Anglo-French and Old North French olie, from Old French oile, uile "oil" (12c., Modern French huile), from Latin oleum "oil, olive oil" (source of Spanish, Italian olio), from Greek elaion "olive tree," from elaia (see olive). Old English æle, Dutch olie, German Öl, etc. all are from Latin. It meant "olive oil" exclusively till c.1300, when meaning began to be extended to any fatty, greasy substance. Use for "petroleum" first recorded 1520s, but not common until 19c. The artist's oils (1660s), short for oil-color (1530s), are paints made by grinding pigment in oil.



mid-15c., from oil (n.). Related: Oiled; oiling. An Old English verb in this sense was besmyrian.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pour oil on troubled waters in Medicine

oil (oil)
Any of numerous mineral, vegetable, and synthetic substances and animal and vegetable fats that are generally slippery, combustible, viscous, liquid or liquefiable at room temperatures, soluble in various organic solvents such as ether but not in water, and used in a great variety of products, especially lubricants and fuels.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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pour oil on troubled waters in Science
Any of a large class of viscous liquids that are typically very slippery and greasy. Oils are composed mostly of glycerides. They are flammable, do not mix with water, and include animal and vegetable fats as well as substances of mineral or synthetic origin. They are used in food, soap, and candles, and make good lubricants and fuels. See essential oil, mineral oil, petroleum.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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pour oil on troubled waters in Culture

pour oil on troubled waters definition

To calm a disturbance: “His ideas caused real dissension within the party at first, but he poured oil on troubled waters in last night's speech.”

Note: In ancient times, oil was often poured on ocean waves to calm turbulence, a practice that would be denounced today.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for pour oil on troubled waters



  1. Flattering and unctuous talk; baloney, bunk: Stop the oil, will you?/ marinated in good old Hollywood oil (1917+)
  2. Money, esp money paid for bribery and acquired by graft (1903+)


: We'll have to oil the mayor to get that permit

Related Terms

banana oil, boil someone in oil, palm oil, strike oil

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 pour oil on troubled waters

pour oil on troubled waters

Soothe or calm down something or someone, as in The twins are quarreling so I'd best go pour oil on troubled waters. This term alludes to an ancient practice of pouring oil on ocean waves to calm their turbulence, which was mentioned in the eighth century. [ Mid-1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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