• synonyms


[puh-troh-lee-uh m]
See more synonyms for petroleum on Thesaurus.com
  1. an oily, thick, flammable, usually dark-colored liquid that is a form of bitumen or a mixture of various hydrocarbons, occurring naturally in various parts of the world and commonly obtained by drilling: used in a natural or refined state as fuel, or separated by distillation into gasoline, naphtha, benzene, kerosene, paraffin, etc.
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Origin of petroleum

1520–30; < Medieval Latin: literally, rock oil, equivalent to Latin petr(a) rock (< Greek pétra) + oleum oil
Related formspe·tro·le·ous, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for petroleum

gasoline, gas, fuel, petrol, kerosene, naphtha

Examples from the Web for petroleum

Contemporary Examples of petroleum

Historical Examples of petroleum

  • It also chanced that this whole country abounded in signs of petroleum.


    Charles Godfrey Leland

  • It has a grade of petroleum that differs from any other thus far found in the world.

    Checking the Waste

    Mary Huston Gregory

  • This petroleum also contains asphalt and other chemical products.

    Checking the Waste

    Mary Huston Gregory

  • Kerosene oil is only one of the many substances found in petroleum.

    Diggers in the Earth

    Eva March Tappan

  • Petroleum is a mixture of various compounds known as hydrocarbons.

    Commercial Geography

    Jacques W. Redway

British Dictionary definitions for petroleum


  1. a dark-coloured thick flammable crude oil occurring in sedimentary rocks around the Persian Gulf, in parts of North and South America, and below the North Sea, consisting mainly of hydrocarbons. Fractional distillation separates the crude oil into petrol, paraffin, diesel oil, lubricating oil, etc. Fuel oil, paraffin wax, asphalt, and carbon black are extracted from the residue
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Word Origin for petroleum

C16: from Medieval Latin, from Latin petra stone + oleum oil
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 petroleum


early 15c. "petroleum, rock oil" (mid-14c. in Anglo-French), from Medieval Latin petroleum, from Latin petra "rock" (see petrous) + oleum "oil" (see oil (n.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

petroleum in Science


  1. A thick, flammable, yellow-to-black mixture of gaseous, liquid, and solid hydrocarbons that occurs naturally beneath the Earth's surface. It can be separated into fractions including natural gas, gasoline, naphtha, kerosene, paraffin wax, asphalt, and fuel and lubricating oils, and is used as raw material for a wide variety of derivative products. It is believed to originate from the accumulated remains of fossil plants and animals, especially in shallow marine environments.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.