Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries

noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Culture definitions for organization of petroleum exporting countries

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries

An organization of about a dozen nations that sell oil to other nations. The purpose of OPEC, a cartel, is to control the production of oil and to establish favorable oil prices for the member nations. Most OPEC countries, such as Libya and Saudi Arabia, are in the Middle East or northern Africa, but Indonesia and Venezuela are members as well.


OPEC was formed in the early 1960s but had little impact before 1973. Then, to punish the United States and several Western nations for supporting Israel in a war against Egypt (see also Egypt) and Syria (see Arab-Israeli conflict), the Arab members of OPEC placed an embargo on the sale of oil to the United States and some of its allies. The result was a severe gasoline shortage and a recession in Western nations, especially in Europe, Canada, and the United States. Since then the price of oil has fluctuated, partly because OPEC members have had difficulty agreeing on and policing a common pricing policy.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.