Definition of carbolic in English:



mass noun
  • 1Phenol, especially when used as a disinfectant.

    • ‘They knew how disease was contracted and spread and how to disinfect surgical instruments and wounds with carbolic acid.’
    • ‘It was obviously impossible to kill microbes in the wound by means of heat as Pasteur had shown in his experiments, so Lister developed chemical methods to destroy the bacteria, initially carbolic acid.’
    • ‘As a butcher and farmer, Garrett would have handled carbolic acid regularly as a disinfectant.’
    • ‘If you warm it up, Bakelite smells of the carbolic acid and formaldehyde that goes into its making.’
    • ‘It wasn't quite the same as when I trained and worked in hospital, when everything was cleaned with carbolic and a hospital smelled of hospital.’
  • 2Disinfectant soap containing phenol.

    • ‘Then he soaped the scrubbing brush with red carbolic and scrubbed his back.’
    • ‘Her world was ordered properly, leaving her nicely settled in her old age, free to sit comfortably through the long afternoons in a wholesome air of carbolic soap and lavender polish.’
    • ‘As I opened this watch, which my sister had found hidden in her attic after all these years, there was a distinct smell of carbolic soap and it reminded me at once of Grandfather.’
    • ‘Ripon Workhouse Museum recalls when the homeless could get a straw bed, weak tea and a meal, if they did not smell of alcohol and agreed to wash themselves down with carbolic soap.’
    • ‘Maggie was a servant girl in her youth and could wield the dykebrush, carbolic soap and dishcloth with better results than anyone I had ever seen before.’
    • ‘How will they get by on Sunday, with no shampoo, just grated carbolic soap.’
    • ‘Stepping into the chemists shop with its huge glass bottles of green and purple liquid, jars of liquorice root and its distinctive smell of carbolic soap took me straight back to my grandmother's house.’
    • ‘Granny dragged her from the bed and pushed her into the cold bathroom with its pink carbolic soap.’
    • ‘We used to make a carbolic soap, sold in long bars, and Tiki soap.’
    • ‘The implements of Vera's illegal trade are a syringe, carbolic soap, a cheese grater and some disinfectant.’
    • ‘This autumn, we should be wearing neat, discreet fashion and talking in clipped, Celia Johnson voices about tea caddies and how marvellous carbolic is on stains.’
    • ‘It would free us up time to get on with scrubbing ourselves with carbolic soap…’
    • ‘An ancient drugs store, this antiquated treat offers carbolic soap, sherbet dib-dabs as well as a variety of other gifts long since disappeared from general sale.’
    • ‘Rays of early morning sun splinter into ever broadening shafts of light as they pierce the half open venetian blinds of a dishevelled, dusty and dreary office filled with a heavy scent of carbolic soap.’


Mid 19th century: from carbo- + -ol + -ic.