1. a soft coal, usually dark brown, often having a distinct woodlike texture, and intermediate in density and carbon content between peat and bituminous coal.

Origin of lignite

First recorded in 1800–10; lign- + -ite1
Related formslig·nit·ic [lig-nit-ik] /lɪgˈnɪt ɪk/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lignite

Historical Examples of lignite

  • The colour was buff, and there were seams of coal and lignite in places.

    A Canyon Voyage

    Frederick S. Dellenbaugh

  • Or we might incorporate him into that burnin' lignite bed over in the butte.

    Yellowstone Nights

    Herbert Quick

  • It is certainly the case that the future possibilities of lignite should not be overlooked.

    A Revision of the Treaty

    John Maynard Keynes

  • Reptilian fossils are found in both the lignite and the intervening layers of rock.

  • In the steep sides of the lake valley nearby are a number of lignite mines.

British Dictionary definitions for lignite


  1. a brown carbonaceous sedimentary rock with woody texture that consists of accumulated layers of partially decomposed vegetation: used as a fuel. Fixed carbon content: 46–60 per cent; calorific value: 1.28 × 10 7 to 1.93 × 10 7 J/kg (5500 to 8300 Btu/lb)Also called: brown coal
Derived Formslignitic (lɪɡˈnɪtɪk), 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

Word Origin and History for lignite

"imperfectly formed coal," 1808, from French, from Latin lignum "wood" (see ligni-). Brown coal that still shows traces of the wood it once was. Probably directly from Lithanthrax Lignius, name given to woody coal by Swedish chemist Johan Gottschalk Wallerius (1709-1785) in 1775.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lignite in Science


  1. A soft, brownish-black form of coal having more carbon than peat but less carbon than bituminous coal. Lignite is easy to mine but does not burn as well as other forms of coal. It is a greater polluter than bituminous coal because it has a higher sulphur content. Compare anthracite bituminous coal.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.