[ met-l ]
See synonyms for metal on
  1. 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.

  2. Chemistry.

    • such a substance in its pure state, as distinguished from alloys.

    • an element yielding positively charged ions in aqueous solutions of its salts.

  1. an alloy or mixture composed wholly or partly of such substances, as brass.

  2. an object made of metal.

  3. formative material; stuff.

  4. Printing.

  5. molten glass in the pot or melting tank.

  6. British. road metal.

verb (used with object),met·aled, met·al·ing or (especially British) met·alled, met·al·ling.
  1. to furnish or cover with metal.

  2. 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

Other words from metal

  • met·al·like, adjective
  • un·met·aled, adjective
  • un·met·alled, adjective

Words that may be confused with metal

Other definitions for metal. (2 of 2)


  1. metallurgical.

  2. metallurgy. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use metal in a sentence

  • In the metal of the tenor several coins are visible, one being a Spanish dollar of 1742.

    Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham | Thomas T. Harman and Walter Showell
  • The metal is then removed, and washed successively with very dilute sodium hydroxid solution, alcohol, and ether.

    A Manual of Clinical Diagnosis | James Campbell Todd
  • All the parts are made of metal, so that no change in the weather can affect their relative positions.

  • Indirect lighting gave a pretty gleam to the metal gadgets on the tables.

    Fee of the Frontier | Horace Brown Fyfe
  • A Cremona Violin is, to a rich amateur, a loadstone that is sure to attract the shining metal from the depths of his purse.

British Dictionary definitions for metal (1 of 2)


/ (ˈmɛtəl) /

    • 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

    • an alloy, such as brass or steel, containing one or more of these elements

  1. printing type made of metal

  1. the substance of glass in a molten state or as the finished product

  2. short for road metal

  3. informal short for heavy metal (def. 1)

  4. navy

    • the total weight of projectiles that can be shot by a ship's guns at any one time

    • the total weight or number of a ship's guns

  5. Also called: heavy element astronomy any element heavier than helium

  6. heraldry gold or silver

  7. (plural) the rails of a railway

  1. made of metal

verb-als, -alling or -alled or US -als, -aling or -aled (tr)
  1. to fit or cover with metal

  2. to make or mend (a road) with road metal

Origin of metal

C13: from Latin metallum mine, product of a mine, from Greek metallon

Derived forms of metal

  • metal-like, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for metal. (2 of 2)


abbreviation for
  1. metallurgical

  2. metallurgy

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 metal


[ mĕtl ]

  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.

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

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

usage For metal

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