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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The common wood preservatives are creosote, penta-chlorophenol in oil, and copper and sodium napthanates.’
    • ‘However, the chemical often used to preserve the wood, coal tar creosote, can present some problems.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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

    ‘a creosoted wooden fence’
    • ‘‘I'm going home to creosote the fence,’ replied Shearer.’
    • ‘Leaning on a creosoted railing London makes sense.’
    • ‘One time her neighbour caught her creosoting her garden fence at five am in the morning.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The original effect of the thickly creosoted sculptures was partly olfactory; the smell of the shore is more than salt alone.’
    • ‘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.’


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