Definition of oil in English:

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Pronunciation: /ɔɪl/


[mass noun]
1A viscous liquid derived from petroleum, especially for use as a fuel or lubricant.
Example sentences
  • That competition is helping the world move away from carbon-rich fuels, like oil and coal.
  • Ireland's heavy reliance on fossil fuels such as oil and coal is not sustainable for the future, he said.
  • At the moment islanders have to rely on a mixture of oil, solid fuel and small hydro schemes which are unreliable and expensive.
lubricant, lubrication, grease;
fuel, petroleum
North American informal black gold
North American & Australian informal lube
1.1Petroleum: 400 birds were coated with oil which spilled out from an opened valve [as modifier]: the oil industry
More example sentences
  • On August 5 a boat collided with the oil tanker causing more than 85 tons of oil to spill into the river and coastal wetlands.
  • House wants to stick us with the tab for prolonging our destructive dependence on fossil fuels, foreign oil and dangerous nuclear technology.
  • In 1912, a small economic boom was fueled by drilling for oil, but it was short-lived.
1.2 [with modifier] Any of various viscous liquids which are insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents and are obtained from animals or plants: potatoes fried in vegetable oil
More example sentences
  • The last group includes energy food, including animal and plant oil, starch and wine.
  • Three bottles of high quality essential oils infused into pure, skin-softening organic apricot kernel oil.
  • Biodiesel is an alternative fuel that can be made out of anything from organic canola oil to used cooking grease from fast-food restaurants.
1.3A liquid preparation used on the hair or skin as a cosmetic: suntan oil
More example sentences
  • Coal tar is available as an ointment, cream, lotion, shampoo, bath oil and soap.
  • These substances include soap film, body secretions, skin, hair, bath oils, and dirt.
  • You can use soap substitutes, bath oils and moisturising creams or ointments to soothe, smooth and hydrate the skin in the treatment of dry skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
1.4 [count noun] Chemistry Any of a group of natural esters of glycerol and various fatty acids, which are liquid at room temperature. Compare with fat.
Example sentences
  • Many naturally occurring fats and oils consist of esters.
  • Included among these compounds are acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate, and numerous other esters and fusel oils.
  • They are chemical compounds which belong to the ‘fatty acid esters’ compounds of an oil and an alcohol.
2 (often oils) Oil paint: a portrait in oils
More example sentences
  • Blanding also paints landscapes and portraits in oil, acrylic, pastels and watercolor.
  • The traditional painterly mediums of oil and watercolour remain the norm for the portraiture commissions.
  • The paintings, oils on canvas, were large, and the paper works, also done in oil, were more painted than drawn.
2.1 [count noun] An oil painting: a dark discoloured oil of an elderly cleric
More example sentences
  • These oils on canvas rework that fulcrum of modernist painting, the grid.
  • This remarkably representative exhibits of 42 oils and gouaches from that later period suggest why.
  • The company deals in originals, oils, acrylics, watercolors and serigraphs.
3Australian /NZ informal Information or facts: Young had some good oil on the Adelaide races


[with object] (often as adjective oiled)
1Lubricate, coat, or impregnate with oil: a lightly oiled baking tray
More example sentences
  • Place the balls onto a lightly oiled baking tray and bake them for about 20 minutes, so they are slightly browned.
  • Lightly oil a 12-hole muffin tray then line each mould with a bacon rasher.
  • After coupling to the coach, No. 823 was coaled manually and then had to reverse down the shed road to be oiled and greased for the return journey.
lubricate, grease
North American & Australian informal lube
2Supply with oil as fuel: attempts should not be made to oil individual tanks too rapidly



oil and water

Used to refer to two elements, factors, or people that are incompatible or do not blend together: he believed that women and boats were about as compatible as oil and water
More example sentences
  • By trying to make it one, they have ended up with something akin to an attempt at mixing oil and water together.
  • Ballads and nu metal bands go together like oil and water, don't they?
  • Normally I would assume that tact and a blunt guy like Matt go together about as well as oil and water, but Matt's social graces come from a genuine wish to make everybody happy.

oil the wheels

British Help something go smoothly: compliments oil the wheels of life
More example sentences
  • But the People in the Know are the people who oil the wheels, who make the world run smoothly.
  • Letter-writing oils the wheels of civilisation.
  • These tags litter our own speech, oiling the wheels of conversation, organising turn-taking and clearing up misunderstanding.


Middle English: from Old Northern French olie, Old French oile, from Latin oleum '(olive) oil'; compare with olea 'olive'.

  • The English word oil goes back to Latin oleum, which referred especially to olive oil. If someone sits up writing or reading until very late they are burning the midnight oil, an expression looking back to the days when the main source of artificial light would be an oil lamp. Oil paints are traditionally used for portraits, and since the early 20th century the unkind verdict that someone is no oil painting has been a way of saying that they are not attractive. Water and oil cannot be mixed. People who are incompatible may be described as being like oil and water together. In classical times, there was a belief among seamen—recorded by the Roman statesman and scholar Pliny the Elder ( ad 23–79)—that pouring oil into a stormy sea could calm the waves. This is probably what lies behind the proverbial expression pour oil on troubled waters, meaning to try to settle a disagreement by soothing those involved.

Words that rhyme with oil

boil, Boyle, broil, coil, Dáil, Doyle, embroil, Fianna Fáil, foil, Hoyle, moil, noil, roil, Royle, soil, spoil, toil, voile

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: oil

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