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Mineralogy. a fibrous mineral, either amphibole or chrysotile, formerly used for making incombustible or fireproof articles.
a fabric woven from asbestos fibers, formerly used for theater curtains, firefighters’ gloves, etc.
Theater. a fireproof curtain.
Contemporary Examples

It was sealed in 2009 for asbestos contamination and its current status remains unclear.
Scientology Glossary: Thetans, Engrams, Sea Org, & More Key Terms David Sessions July 5, 2012

“They’ve had an 800 number up for a year, like they’re plaintiffs lawyers in an asbestos case,” he scoffed.
‘America’s Sheriff’ Flouts the Feds Zachary Roth August 3, 2010

Because the important point is what those rulings did not do: create a market for asbestos liability insurance.
Should People Be Forced to Buy Liability Insurance for their Guns? Megan McArdle December 27, 2012

asbestos brake lining was produced here starting in 1915, and a fabric manufacturer took over in 1937.
Our Most Polluted States The Daily Beast May 18, 2010

Montana got Medicare coverage for people living near an asbestos Superfund site.
Pass the Christmas Pork, Please Lee Siegel December 23, 2009

Historical Examples

The hives may also be covered with layers of thick paper or asbestos board.
Bee Hunting John Ready Lockard

Then cover the vents with asbestos or a wet cloth as already described.
The Automobile Storage Battery O. A. Witte

Life is hell, and happy is that man who is able to procure for himself an asbestos overcoat and a fire-proof room.
Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great Philosophers, Volume 8 Elbert Hubbard

This liability to breakage is reduced, but not eliminated, by the asbestos annealing.
On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall

But let a player make a bad break, and McGraw delivers a talk to him that would have to be written on asbestos paper.
Pitching in a Pinch Christy Mathewson


any of the fibrous amphibole and serpentine minerals, esp chrysotile and tremolite, that are incombustible and resistant to chemicals. It was formerly widely used in the form of fabric or board as a heat-resistant structural material
(as modifier): asbestos matting


1650s, earlier albeston, abestus (c.1100), name of a fabulous stone, which, set afire, could not be extinguished; from Old French abeste, abestos, from Latin asbestos “quicklime” (which “burns” when cold water is poured on it), from Greek asbestos, literally “inextinguishable,” from a- “not” (see a- (3)) + sbestos, verbal adjective from sbennynai “to quench,” from PIE root *(s)gwes- “to quench, extinguish” (cf. Lithuanian gestu “to go out,” Old Church Slavonic gaso, Hittite kishtari “is being put out”).

The Greek word was used by Dioscorides as a noun meaning “quicklime.” “Erroneously applied by Pliny to an incombustible fibre, which he believed to be vegetable, but which was really the amiantos of the Greeks” [OED]. Meaning “mineral capable of being woven into incombustible fabric” is from c.1600 in English; earlier this was called amiant (early 15c.), from Latin amiantus, from Greek amiantos, literally “undefiled” (so called because it showed no mark or stain when thrown into fire). Supposed in the Middle Ages to be salamanders’ wool. Prester John, the Emperor of India, and Pope Alexander III were said to have had robes or tunics made of it.

asbestos as·bes·tos or as·bes·tus (ās-běs’təs, āz-)
Either of two incombustible, chemical-resistant, fibrous mineral forms of impure magnesium silicate, used for fireproofing, electrical insulation, brake linings, and chemical filters. adj.
Of, made of, or containing one or the other of these two mineral forms.
Any of several fibrous mineral forms of magnesium silicate. Asbestos is resistant to heat, flames, and chemical action. Some forms have been shown to cause lung diseases. For this reason, asbestos is no longer used to make insulation, fireproofing material, and brake linings.

Used as a modifier to anything intended to protect one from flames; also in other highly flame-suggestive usages. E.g., asbestos longjohns, asbestos cork award.
[Jargon File]


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