Definition of creosote in US English:



  • 1A dark brown oil distilled from coal tar and used as a wood preservative. It contains a number of phenols, cresols, and other organic compounds.

    • ‘Common aromatic compounds other than benzene include toluene, naphthalene, and anthracene, all of which are present in coal tar or creosote.’
    • ‘The common wood preservatives are creosote, penta-chlorophenol in oil, and copper and sodium napthanates.’
    • ‘If you are really desperate, take advantage of the hot weather and slap a coat of creosote on the garden fence or shed.’
    • ‘Avoid using wood treated with creosote or penta, as the vapors can injure some plants.’
    • ‘However, the chemical often used to preserve the wood, coal tar creosote, can present some problems.’
    • ‘An original child's rocker is also kept here, which has been in the family for over 150 years, and is dosed with creosote in an effort to preserve the wood.’
    1. 1.1 A colorless, pungent, oily liquid, containing creosol and other compounds, distilled from wood tar and used as an antiseptic.
      • ‘Soot and creosote build-up cause foul odors, excessive and carcinogenic smoke and fire danger.’
      • ‘I've been bathed in creosote in Utah by a Native American Indian.’
      • ‘We learn that the Cahuilla Indians in the Mojave Desert, where we are, inhaled the vapors from boiling creosote to treat respiratory infections.’
      • ‘The residents fear that the inhalation of creosote fumes, which have an odor like scorched tar, is yet another route of exposure in an already toxic environment.’
      • ‘The smell is due to creosote deposits in the chimney, a natural byproduct of wood burning.’


[with object]
  • Treat (wood) with creosote.

    • ‘‘I'm going home to creosote the fence,’ replied Shearer.’
    • ‘Leaning on a creosoted railing London makes sense.’
    • ‘Yesterday, kept waiting for the rain to stop so I could creosote the new step my neighbour replaced on the terrace, but I kept getting the timing wrong.’
    • ‘One time her neighbour caught her creosoting her garden fence at five am in the morning.’
    • ‘Agnes was leaning over the creosoted garden-gate, and behind her there stood a young man who had the figure of a Greek athlete and the face of an English one.’
    • ‘The original effect of the thickly creosoted sculptures was partly olfactory; the smell of the shore is more than salt alone.’


Mid 19th century: coined in German from Greek kreas ‘flesh’ + sōtēr ‘preserver’, with reference to its antiseptic properties.