General English

General Science

  • noun a thick black sticky substance derived from coal


  • noun a file compression system used on a computer running the UNIX operating system.


  • A dark, glutinous oil distilled from coal, peat, shale, and resinous woods, used as surface binder in road construction and as a coating in roof installation. See also coal-tar pitch.

Origin & History of “tar”

Tar is etymologically a substance produced from ‘trees’. The word goes back via a prehistoric Germanic *terw- (source also of German and Dutch teer, Swedish tjära, and Danish tjære) to Indo-European *drew- ‘tree’ (source of English tree) – the original application of the word evidently having been to the tarry resins produced by conifers. (The tar (17th c.) of Jack tar ‘sailor’ is short for tarpaulin (17th c.), a compound noun probably formed from tar and pall ‘covering’.).