Definition of carbon in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The chemical element of atomic number 6, a non-metal which has two main forms (diamond and graphite) and which also occurs in impure form in charcoal, soot, and coal.

    • ‘Every source of soot, every fuel and means of burning it, has its own ratio of soot to organic carbon; few have yet been analyzed.’
    • ‘The amount of carbon in the coal will combine in combustion with oxygen, and it has to go somewhere.’
    • ‘Combustion, or burning, is a chemical process involving carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.’
    • ‘The search for life focuses mostly on planets with liquid water, a heat or energy source, and chemicals like carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.’
    • ‘After running his models, Saumon concluded that in Saturn, heavy elements like iron, silicon, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are concentrated in the core of the planet.’
    • ‘We know that the Moon is low on certain chemicals such as hydrogen and carbon.’
    • ‘One possibility of this sort of manipulation could turn carbon into either graphite or diamond.’
    • ‘On the Earth, it is found only in combination with other elements, such as oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen.’
    • ‘It is composed mostly of isotopes of hydrogen and helium and includes 60 other elements including neon, argon carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and iron.’
    • ‘Proteins are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen; it is the presence of the last of these which distinguishes proteins from the other materials of life.’
    • ‘Most plants live with their heads above ground, where they pick up carbon, hydrogen and oxygen floating in the air.’
    • ‘The plan is that these will determine the abundance and stable isotopic compositions of elements such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.’
    • ‘Consider the top five constituents of the cosmos, in order of their abundance: hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen.’
    • ‘The ozone depleting compounds contain combinations of the elements chlorine, fluorine, bromine, carbon and hydrogen.’
    • ‘The light elements such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are especially plentiful in space.’
    • ‘Silicon reacts chemically like carbon although it does not form multiple bonds.’
    • ‘For common cast iron, the main elements of the chemical composition are carbon and silicon.’
    • ‘Then again, a diamond is only carbon (with a skin of hydrogen, one molecule thick): why shouldn't it be almost as combustible as coal?’
    • ‘The action of the micro-organisms will reduce the nitrogen, carbon and phosphate levels of the dam.’
    • ‘The biosphere consists of six main elements: carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, oxygen, and hydrogen.’
    1. 1.1[usually as modifier]Carbon fibre.
      ‘a bike with a carbon frame’
    2. 1.2[count noun]A rod of carbon in an arc lamp.
      • ‘By the 1970's there was no longer a source for the 2 1/2 inch carbons that were required for this light.’
      • ‘The carbons last approximately 2 hours and then are replaced.’
    3. 1.3[count noun]A piece of carbon paper or a carbon copy.
      • ‘Luckily, her maid had written receipts and kept the carbons.’
      • ‘They glide their tracing wheels (used in sewing) over the top of the carbons.’
      • ‘Also, because the operator making the observation actually does the input, errors caused when someone misinterprets values on poor-quality carbons or misunderstands fine shades of meaning are eliminated.’
      • ‘The first samizdat were typed carbons, definitely not books, just as the Samizdat you are holding now is definitely not the usual literary journal.’
      • ‘This was in the good old days when you drew your layouts on a massive piece of grid paper outfitted with a carbon layer so there were three copies.’
      • ‘Customers were told to keep their carbons so the account number could not be reused.’
      • ‘Someone could go through your trash to find discarded receipts or carbons and use them to learn your account numbers.’
      • ‘All copies either had to be produced with carbons or on ‘skins’ fed through the temperamental duplicator.’
      • ‘If there is a carbon, also ask for that from the clerk and shred it when you go home.’
      copy, reproduction, duplicate, photocopy, mimeograph, mimeo, replica, likeness, carbon, carbon copy, print, reprint, offprint, image
      View synonyms
  • 2Carbon dioxide or other gaseous carbon compounds released into the atmosphere, associated with climate change.

    ‘the level of carbon in the atmosphere has been consistently rising’
    [as modifier] ‘fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions continued to rise’
    • ‘This litter decomposes more slowly, resulting in a higher carbon accumulation rate.’


Late 18th century: from French carbone, from Latin carbo, carbon- coal, charcoal.