[ kohl ]
See synonyms for: coalcoals on

  1. a black or dark-brown combustible mineral substance consisting of carbonized vegetable matter, used as a fuel.: Compare anthracite, bituminous coal, lignite.

  2. a piece of glowing, charred, or burned wood or other combustible substance.

verb (used with object)
  1. to burn to coal or charcoal.

  2. to provide with coal.

verb (used without object)
  1. to take in coal for fuel.

Idioms about coal

  1. heap coals of fire on someone's head, to repay evil with good in order to make one's enemy repent.

  2. 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

Other words from coal

  • coalless, adjective

Words that may be confused with coal

Words Nearby coal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use coal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for coal


/ (kəʊl) /

    • 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, peat 1

    • (as modifier): coal cellar; coal merchant; coal mine; coal dust

  1. one or more lumps of coal

  1. short for charcoal

  2. coals to Newcastle something supplied where it is already plentiful

  3. haul someone over the coals to reprimand someone

  1. to take in, provide with, or turn into coal

Origin of coal

Old English col; related to Old Norse kol, Old High German kolo, Old Irish gūal

Derived forms of coal

  • coaly, adjective

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

Scientific definitions for coal


[ kōl ]

  1. 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with coal


see carry coals to Newcastle; rake over the coals.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.