General English

General Science

  • noun an impure form of carbon, formed when wood is burnt in the absence of oxygen


  • noun a highly absorbent substance, formed when wood is burnt in the absence of oxygen, used to relieve diarrhoea or intestinal gas and in cases of poisoning

Origin & History of “charcoal”

The words char and charcoal are related, but not in the way commonsense might lead one to suppose: for the verb char (17th c.), originally apparently a charcoal-burner’s term, appears to derive from charcoal. So etymologically, the element char has nothing to do with ‘burning’. there are two main suggestions as to charcoal’s origins: firstly that it comes from Old French charbon ‘charcoal’ (related to English carbon); and secondly that it represents the now obsolete English verb chare (see (charwoman)), which in Old English times (cerran) meant ‘turn’. On the basis of this theory, the etymological meaning of the word would be ‘turning into charcoal’ (for in Old English, coal meant ‘charcoal’ as well as ‘coal’).