Definition of alcohol in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈalkəˌhôl/
Pronunciation: /ˈalkəˌhäl/


1A colorless volatile flammable liquid that is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars and is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks, and is also used as an industrial solvent and as fuel.
  • Alternative names: ethanol, ethyl alcohol; chemical formula: C2H5OH.
Example sentences
  • Sugar is taken and in the presence of an enzyme (a biological catalyst) ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide are produced.
  • Fermentation The conversion of sugar in grape juice into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • an important measurement of any wine, is its concentration of the intoxicant ethyl alcohol, or ethanol.
1.1Drink containing this: she hasn’t drunk alcohol in five years
More example sentences
  • He said that among the tenets of the Muslim faith were that one did not drink alcohol or serve it to guests.
  • If he could have stopped at one or two drinks, alcohol would have served him well, but he couldn't do that.
  • If you are using alcohol, vodka is the most appropriate as it has no scent of its own.
liquor, intoxicating drink/beverage(s), strong drink, alcoholic drink/beverage(s), drink, spirits
informal booze, hooch, the hard stuff, firewater, rotgut, moonshine, white lightning, grog, the demon rum, the bottle, the sauce
technical ethyl alcohol, ethanol
1.2 Chemistry Any organic compound whose molecule contains one or more hydroxyl groups attached to a carbon atom.
Example sentences
  • Complete combustion of alcohols produces carbon dioxide and water.
  • Thermatoga microorganisms are known to play a role in the anaerobic oxidation of hydrocarbons to alcohols, organic acids and carbon dioxide.
  • On the other hand, the permeability of the membrane for small uncharged solutes such as low molecular weight alcohols, amides, ketones etc., did not change.


Mid 16th century: French (earlier form of alcool), or from medieval Latin, from Arabic al-kuḥl 'the kohl'. In early use the term denoted powders, specifically kohl, and especially those obtained by sublimation; later 'a distilled or rectified spirit' (mid 17th century).

  • Arabic al-kuhl gave us the modern English word alcohol, but there were several changes in meaning along the way. Al in Arabic means ‘the’, and al-kuhl means ‘the kohl’, referring to a powder used as eye make-up. By extension, the term was applied to a fine powder and then to a liquid essence or spirit obtained by distillation.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: al·co·hol

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.