or spi·nelle

[ spi-nel, spin-l ]
/ spɪˈnɛl, ˈspɪn l /
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any of a group of minerals composed principally of oxides of magnesium, aluminum, iron, manganese, chromium, etc., characterized by their hardness and octahedral crystals.
a mineral of this group, essentially magnesium aluminate, MgAl2O4, some varieties being used as gems.
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Origin of spinel

1520–30; <French spinelle<Italian spinella, equivalent to spin(a) thorn (<Latin spīna) + -ella-elle
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does spinel mean?

Spinel is the name for a kind of mineral and a variety of the mineral that’s used as a gemstone, especially a red-colored one.

The word can be used to refer to a gemstone, as in I want a ring with a spinel, or the mineral material, This is made of spinel. It’s sometimes spelled as spinelle or spinell.

Spinel can come in deep or pastel shades of red, pink, purple, blue, and black. Black spinel is rare and very valuable.

The red variety is similar in tone, color, and transparency to rubies, the blue variety is similar to sapphires, and spinels are sometimes mistaken for or sold as a less expensive substitute for these more expensive gems. Some famous gemstones once thought to be rubies have actually been correctly identified as spinels.

Spinel is one of the birthstones for the month of August. It is associated with the zodiac signs Leo and Virgo.

Example: Most people think the stone in my ring is a ruby, but it’s actually a deep red spinel.

Where does spinel come from?

The first records of the word spinel come from the 1500s. It comes from the French spinelle and the Italian spinella, a diminutive of the Latin spina, meaning “thorn” (a reference to the shape of the crystals).

The mineral spinel is composed of oxides of magnesium, aluminum, iron, manganese, chromium, and other elements. Since the magnesium oxide base is colorless, any color is due to the presence of other elements, such as zinc, iron, or aluminum. Spinel gemstones used for jewelry are found in igneous rocks, granite pegmatites, and some limestone deposits.

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What are some other forms related to spinel?

  • spinelle (alternate spelling)
  • spinell (alternate spelling)

What are some words that share a root or word element with spinel

What are some words that often get used in discussing spinel?

How is spinel used in real life?

Spinel is not a particularly well-known gemstone—the red variety is sometimes mistaken for or used as a replacement for ruby.

Try using spinel!

True or False?

Spinels are only red.

How to use spinel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for spinel

/ (spɪˈnɛl) /

any of a group of hard glassy minerals of variable colour consisting of oxides of aluminium, magnesium, chromium, iron, zinc, or manganese and occurring in the form of octahedral crystals: used as gemstones
a hard, glassy mineral composed of magnesium-aluminium oxide found in metamorphosed limestones and many basic and ultrabasic igneous rocks. Formula: MgAl 2 O 4

Word Origin for spinel

C16: from French spinelle, from Italian spinella, diminutive of spina a thorn, from Latin; so called from the shape of the crystals
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 spinel


A hard, variously colored cubic mineral, having usually octahedral crystals and occurring in igneous and metamorphosed carbonate rocks. The red variety is valued as a gem and is sometimes confused with the ruby. Chemical formula: MgAl2O4.
Any of a group of minerals that are oxides of magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, or aluminum.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.