Definition of oil in US English:



  • 1A viscous liquid derived from petroleum, especially for use as a fuel or lubricant.

    • ‘We have to drastically reduce the burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, so we need more wind farms to produce cleaner electricity.’
    • ‘Prices are up for energy products, including diesel fuel and heating oil.’
    • ‘In general, expect to change your mower's engine oil twice each year.’
    • ‘At the moment islanders have to rely on a mixture of oil, solid fuel and small hydro schemes which are unreliable and expensive.’
    • ‘Stoves can be wood-burning or fuelled by coal, oil, gas or even electricity.’
    • ‘All forms of heating and water boilers - gas coal, wood, solid fuel, paraffin and oil - can be dangerous.’
    • ‘It is oil for use as fuel, whether it is gasoline, jet fuel, or heating oil.’
    • ‘The rear main engine seal keeps leaking oil.’
    • ‘Transportation via internal combustion engines that use gas and oil is responsible for more than 17 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘My Maserati is a top flight machine that requires the best grades of oil and fuel because I want it to run faster and burn hotter.’
    • ‘Fuel, including oil, gas and coal, represents 50 per cent of its generating costs.’
    • ‘To check the oil, you remove the dipstick, wipe off the oil, and reinsert the dipstick as far as it will go.’
    • ‘We used tilly lamps for light and had to transport oil and other fuel to the house.’
    • ‘Carbon emissions occur wherever fossil fuels, like oil, gasoline, and natural gas, are burned for energy.’
    lubricant, lubrication, grease
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Petroleum.
      • ‘Western civilization is now predicated on oil and the plastics derived from it.’
      • ‘It is unusual to drill an oil well without a paleontologist onsite to determine when the desired oil-bearing rock layer has been reached.’
      • ‘The two giants have put aside their differences and have decided that as oil runs out, fuel cells are the way forward.’
      • ‘Although Iran exports oil, fuel for use in homes is not always available.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The union wants Government to do away with middlemen in the procurement of crude oil to avoid unnecessary fuel price increases.’
      • ‘When we come back, oil is fueling an economic boom in Equatorial Guinea.’
      • ‘Today, high-tech machinery extracts the oil in minutes.’
      • ‘The State more than pays its way through income derived from oil, commercial fishing, tourism, mining and logging.’
      • ‘On the way home, their plane flies above a ship spilling oil into the sea.’
      • ‘It takes a long time to extract oil under any conditions.’
      • ‘If the railroad supervisor was negligent in overseeing the independent contractor who accidentally spilled oil into a river, whatever harm resulted should have been addressed in a civil proceeding.’
      • ‘Essentially, you are selling a depleting resource, and once the oil is extracted from your land, no more will follow.’
      • ‘In 1912, a small economic boom was fueled by drilling for oil, but it was short-lived.’
      • ‘Taken together, these factors will increase the cost of refining oil.’
      • ‘Our economy depends so much on fossil fuel that a lack of oil without any alternative fuel sources would lead to total chaos.’
      • ‘Although often simplified as a religious war, the conflict is also fueled by competition for oil, land and other resources.’
      • ‘She also goes in search of fossil fuels and manages to extract oil from the local shale.’
      • ‘House wants to stick us with the tab for prolonging our destructive dependence on fossil fuels, foreign oil and dangerous nuclear technology.’
      • ‘Perhaps the most impressive feat was refining the oil to run vehicles.’
    2. 1.2with modifier Any of various thick, viscous, typically flammable liquids that are insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents and are obtained from animals or plants.
      ‘potatoes fried in vegetable oil’
      • ‘Hemp oil largely replacing petroleum could mean the end of tanker disasters at sea which cause loss of life to seabirds and other marine organisms.’
      • ‘Billy has been researching organic repellent using the oil of the neem trees he has planted around the gardens.’
      • ‘After being steamed on water with light soybean oil, spring onion and ginger, the fish is bland and delicate.’
      • ‘The cheddar made from animals fed on sunflower oil contained almost 2.5 times the amount of the nutrient than that made from cows fed a normal diet.’
      • ‘The most abundant sources of industrial fatty acids are coconut oil, palm oil, and soybean oil.’
      • ‘These lamps, which are traditionally fueled by mustard oil, are placed in rows in windows, doors and outside buildings to decorate them.’
      • ‘Three bottles of high quality essential oils infused into pure, skin-softening organic apricot kernel oil.’
      • ‘Add the sunflower oil and enough water to form a supple dough.’
      • ‘The one exception to the blockade against animal fat is fish oil.’
      • ‘Treat with applications of cider vinegar over the affected area, or apply a fungicide made by dissolving one part tea tree oil in ten parts water.’
      • ‘The strong fragrance of the special Japanese soybean oil made our mouth water and left us addicted to the cuisine.’
      • ‘It is a subject that clearly fires him and he delves enthusiastically into the process of applying for landing slots and the use of cooking oil as a fuel.’
      • ‘Biodiesel is an alternative fuel that can be made out of anything from organic canola oil to used cooking grease from fast-food restaurants.’
      • ‘The pouring of pure water scented with jasmine oil washes away worries.’
      • ‘Finally, Bell was to try adding flaxseed oil and other healthy plant oils daily to her food.’
      • ‘It's just a matter of having the right type of fat - olive oil or canola oil instead of lard or butter.’
      • ‘Vitamin A is present in animal tissue, mainly in liver, fish oil, egg yolks, butter, and cheese.’
      • ‘The last group includes energy food, including animal and plant oil, starch and wine.’
      • ‘A former theatre boss is setting up a factory to turn used cooking oil into eco-friendly fuel for cars.’
      • ‘I can fill a tooth temporarily with zinc oxide and clove oil if the dentist is out of town.’
    3. 1.3 A liquid preparation used on the hair or skin as a cosmetic.
      ‘suntan oil’
      • ‘He strode over to Katrina's back and engulfed her in a hug, inhaling the scent of her hair and bath oils.’
      • ‘This year I included a facemask, massage oil and hair treatments!’
      • ‘You even get some Aveda shampoo to wash the massage oil out of your hair.’
      • ‘I laid my towel down and rubbed suntan lotion onto my skin and bronzing oil onto my legs.’
      • ‘Coal tar is available as an ointment, cream, lotion, shampoo, bath oil and soap.’
      • ‘She always wore Joop Berlin and The Body Shop Dewberry oil.’
      • ‘Those with very dry skin need to apply oil afterwards.’
      • ‘These substances include soap film, body secretions, skin, hair, bath oils, and dirt.’
      • ‘The fashion of tanned skin was born in the twenties, when sun tan oil was first sold.’
      • ‘In the grainy black and white photo I can still make out the sheen of A.'s hair oil and the way he slicked his dark locks back on the sides.’
      • ‘Bath oils and oil-rich hair wax and face masks will be most effective at the time of the waxing moon, while detoxifying products such as seaweed wraps and sea-salt baths are best when the moon is waning.’
      • ‘The only thing missing was the Gipper's slicked back do, all Grecian formula and hair oil.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If you have relaxed hair, it can look greasy from too much wax or hair oil.’
      ointment, lotion, cream
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4Chemistry Any of a group of natural esters of glycerol and various fatty acids, which are liquid at room temperature.
      Compare with fat
      • ‘Methanolic sodium methoxide efficiently transesterified the fats and oils on the feathers to fatty-acid methyl esters.’
      • ‘Many naturally occurring fats and oils consist of esters.’
      • ‘They are chemical compounds which belong to the ‘fatty acid esters’ compounds of an oil and an alcohol.’
      • ‘Included among these compounds are acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate, and numerous other esters and fusel oils.’
      • ‘Glycerin is a thick liquid with a sweet taste that is found in fats and oils and is the primary triglyceride found in coconut and olive oil.’
  • 2often oilsOil paint.

    ‘a portrait in oils’
    • ‘He creates drawings, and he paints with gouache, watercolor and oil on canvas.’
    • ‘Emulating the old masters, he used tempera and oil over gesso on wood, then covered the surface with transparent glaze.’
    • ‘Working with oil, water colours and other media, the artist has also chosen clay to express his world.’
    • ‘The paintings consist of works by local artists in oil, acrylic, watercolour, pastel and mixed media.’
    • ‘Since then, Jayant has dabbled with oil on canvas, watercolour, charcoal, acrylic, clay and plaster of Paris.’
    • ‘On slightly off-white paper, Botha paints in oils of the same colour, a series of partial and whole coats of arms.’
    • ‘Although some experience in watercolour or oil would be of help, it is not a prerequisite.’
    • ‘He uses oil, watercolor, charcoal, and serigraphs to depict his subjects.’
    • ‘Latex-based paints and stains are water borne, and oil or alkyd paints are solvent borne.’
    • ‘Creative energy flows free when the acrylic, oil, tempera and watercolors are brought out.’
    • ‘He picked up the nuances of usage of media such as charcoal, chalk, watercolour, oil, and acrylic.’
    • ‘The paintings, oils on canvas, were large, and the paper works, also done in oil, were more painted than drawn.’
    • ‘Jeng executes his landscapes in crayon and oil, as opposed to the more traditional Chinese ink.’
    • ‘The traditional painterly mediums of oil and watercolour remain the norm for the portraiture commissions.’
    • ‘There are about 80 works in watercolours, oil, acrylic and sculpture.’
    • ‘Blanding also paints landscapes and portraits in oil, acrylic, pastels and watercolor.’
    • ‘All these wonderful print images are first painted on canvas with oil or acrylic.’
    • ‘Compared to mediums like oil or acrylic, watercolor has a vaguely genteel air.’
    • ‘This is not astonishing looking at the artist's origins as a painter in watercolors and oil.’
    • ‘Hopper worked in watercolour as well as oil and also made etchings, beginning in 1915.’


[with object]often as adjective oiled
  • Lubricate or coat (something) with oil.

    ‘a lightly oiled baking tray’
    ‘her hair was heavily oiled’
    • ‘Hasina, who knows certain basics of stitching, has oiled her sewing machine.’
    • ‘Lightly oil a 12-hole muffin tray then line each mould with a bacon rasher.’
    • ‘Try bending the flap gently, and also try cleaning and lightly oiling the hinges.’
    • ‘On 26 April 1994, the transport was pushed out of the hangar in preparation for oiling and fueling.’
    • ‘Does the machine need to be oiled?’
    • ‘The hinges hadn't been oiled in so long that the slightest movement of the doors sent a creak from the hinge so loud that it could be heard anywhere in the huge home.’
    • ‘Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.’
    • ‘It swung open on oiled hinges to reveal two rooms.’
    • ‘Place the balls onto a lightly oiled baking tray and bake them for about 20 minutes, so they are slightly browned.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Brush one side of each slice with extra-virgin olive oil and place, oiled side up, on a 10-by 15-inch baking sheet.’
    • ‘I mean we already are a perfectly oiled machine.’
    • ‘However the two couldn't work without the other, they worked like a freshly oiled machine, another reason for the success of their business.’
    • ‘Apparently one of the shots had hit the main fuel repository, and just as the crews were oiling up their machines.’
    • ‘In Tucson, Arizona, Barbara dries them on her roof, spreading the tomatoes on oiled screens under cheesecloth tents to foil the birds.’
    • ‘They dashed here and there, replacing exhausted supplies of thread for shuttles, oiling machinery.’
    • ‘The hinges didn't even squeak; Dïen must have oiled them.’
    • ‘Set in an ice bath until chilled, drain and place on an oiled sheet pan.’
    • ‘He put away the golf clubs, having oiled them, and they did not come out of cold storage until 2000.’
    • ‘My idea of lubrication was oiling my bike chain.’
    lubricate, grease
    View synonyms


  • oil and water

    • Used to refer to two elements, factors, or people that do not agree or blend together.

      • ‘I think it took a long time for the two of us to get OK with each other because we are absolutely oil and water.’
      • ‘Where this author is concerned fact and fiction are not like oil and water.’
      • ‘My birthday - bang in the middle of summer - was always ‘spoilt’ because my cousins and my friend were like oil and water.’
      • ‘The two mindsets mix together ‘about as well as oil and water,’ Freeland writes.’
      • ‘Jazz and technology have frequently mixed about as well as oil and water.’
      • ‘By trying to make it one, they have ended up with something akin to an attempt at mixing oil and water together.’
      • ‘For starters, Republicans are in control of the statehouse, and Republicans and tax increases mix about as well as oil and water.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Hopkins and Rock are so wrong together that it's like mixing oil and water.’
      • ‘Ballads and nu metal bands go together like oil and water, don't they?’


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