GC: n

S: (last access: 6 April 2016); last access: 6 April 2016).

N: 1. early 14c., “hard, resinous mineral pitch found originally in Biblical lands,” from Late Latin asphaltum, from Greek asphaltos “asphalt, bitumen,” probably from a non-Greek source, possibly Semitic (Klein, citing Lewy, 1895). Another theory holds it to be from Greek a- “not” + *sphaltos “able to be thrown down,” taken as verbal adjective of sphallein “to throw down,” in reference to a use of the material in building.
Meaning “paving composition” dates from 1847 and its popular use in this sense established the modern form of the English word, displacing in most senses asphaltum, asphaltos. As a verb meaning “to cover with asphalt,” from 1872. Related: Asphaltic.
2. black or brown petroleum-like material that has a consistency varying from viscous liquid to glassy solid. It is obtained either as a residue from the distillation of petroleum or from natural deposits. Asphalt consists of compounds of hydrogen and carbon with minor proportions of nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen. Natural asphalt (also called brea), which is believed to be formed during an early stage in the breakdown of organic marine deposits into petroleum, characteristically contains minerals, while residual petroleum asphalt does not.
3. The use of asphalt is very old, dating back to its use as a water stop between brick walls of a reservoir at Mohenjo-Daro (about the 3rd millennium bc) in Pakistan. In the Middle East it was extensively used for paving roads and sealing waterworks, important applications even today.
4. A bitumen of variable hardness comparatively non volatile, composed principally of hydrocarbons containing little or no crystallizable paraffins.
5. In the UK, known asphalt is used to describe natural or artificial mixture of bitumen with mineral matter.
6. It occurs in nature, but can also be obtained as the residue from the refining of certain petroleums and is then known as artificial asphalt.
7. A dark brown to black bituminous material prepared by pyrolysis from tar and petroleum, which melts on heating and is soluble in gasoline.
8. Widely used for paving, roofing, paints and varnishes.
9. The terms asphalt and bitumen are often used interchangeably to mean both natural and manufactured forms of the substance. In American English, asphalt (or asphalt cement) is the carefully refined residue from the distillation process of selected crude oils. Outside the United States, the product is often called bitumen. Geologists often prefer the term bitumen. Common usage often refers to various forms of asphalt/bitumen as “tar”, such as at the La Brea Tar Pits. Another archaic term for asphalt/bitumen is “pitch”.
Naturally occurring asphalt/bitumen is sometimes specified by the term “crude bitumen”. Its viscosity is similar to that of cold molasses while the material obtained from the fractional distillation of crude oil boiling at 525 °C (977 °F) is sometimes referred to as “refined bitumen”.
10. Cultural Interrelation: As a metafor “asphalt jungle” means that urban environment is wild. In that case, we can mention the movie The Asphalt Jungle (1950) directed by John Huston.

S: 1. OED – (last access: 2 September 2014). 2 & 3. EncBrit – (last access: 2 September 2014). 4, 5 & 6. GDT (last access: 2 April 2015). 7 & 8. TERMIUM PLUS (last access: 2 April 2015). 9. (last access: 2 April 2015). 10. (last access: 2 April 2015); FCB.


CR: artificial asphalt, bitumen, bituminous coal, coal, coke, natural gas, petroleum, pitch, tar.