verb (used with object)



    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 formsoil·less, adjectiveoil·less·ness, nounoil·like, adjectivere·oil, verbself-oil·ing, adjectiveun·oil·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for oil

coat, grease, anoint, smear, slick, lard, pomade, lube

Examples from the Web for oil

Contemporary Examples of oil

Historical Examples of oil

British Dictionary definitions for oil



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 chemicalsSee also essential oil, fixed oil
  1. another name for petroleum
  2. (as modifier)an oil engine; an oil rig
  1. Also called: lubricating oilany 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 oiloil of vitriol
the solvent, usually linseed oil, with which pigments are mixed to make artists' paints
  1. (often plural)oil colour or paint
  2. (as modifier)an oil painting
an oil painting
the good oil or the dinkum oil Australian and NZ slang facts or news
strike oil
  1. to discover petroleum while drilling for it
  2. informalto become very rich or successful

verb (tr)

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 Formsoil-like, adjective

Word Origin for oil

C12: from Old French oile, from Latin oleum (olive) oil, from olea olive tree, from Greek elaia olive
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 oil

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

oil in Medicine




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.

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

Idioms and Phrases with oil


see banana oil; burn the midnight oil; grease (oil) someone's palm; grease (oil) the wheels; pour oil on troubled waters; strike it rich (oil).

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