July 02, 2012
petroleum (noun)
\puh-TROH-lee-um\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: an oily flammable liquid that may vary from almost colorless to black, is obtained from wells drilled in the ground, and is the source of gasoline, kerosene, fuel oils, and other products
How do you use it?
In August 1859, Edwin L. Drake oversaw the completion of the first well drilled specifically for oil, and so began the petroleum industry.
Are you a word wiz?

The word "petroleum" comes from the Latin root "oleum," meaning "oil." Which word do you think also comes from "oleum"?

Did our question floor you? Or did you choose "linoleum," the word for a floor covering with a surface of hardened linseed oil? The word "linoleum" is made of two Latin roots: "linum," meaning "flax" (the plant from which linseed oil is derived) and "oleum," meaning "oil." "Petroleum" combines the Latin "petra," meaning "rock" or "stone," and "oleum," so the literal translation is "rock oil." The English word "oil" is also a member of this word family; "oil" comes from "oleum" itself. And "oleum" derives from the Greek "elaion," from the noun "elaia," meaning "olive."
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