Asbestus As*bes"tus, Asbestos As*bes"tos (?; 277), n. [L. asbestos (NL. asbestus) a kind of mineral unaffected by fire, Gr. ? (prop. an adj.) inextinguishable; 'a priv. + ? to extinguish.] (Min.) A variety of amphibole or of pyroxene, occurring in long and delicate fibers, or in fibrous masses or seams, usually of a white, gray, or green-gray color. The name is also given to a similar variety of serpentine. [1913 Webster]

Note: The finer varieties have been wrought into gloves and cloth which are incombustible. The cloth was formerly used as a shroud for dead bodies, and has been recommended for firemen's clothes. Asbestus in also employed in the manufacture of iron safes, for fireproof roofing, and for lampwicks. Some varieties are called amianthus. --Dana. Since the discovery, in the 1960's, of the ability of certain types of asbestos to cause lung cancer, its use has been more restricted, and precautions are taken to avoid inhalation of asbestos dust. Also, a debilitating lung disease, termed asbestosis, has been attributed to its inhalation. Lawsuits against the Johns-Manville corporation by those claiming to have been injured by asbestos resulted in the bankruptcy of that corporation, and the transfer of its assets to the claimants. (ca. 1985) [1913 Webster+PJC]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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  • asbestos — [14] Originally, the word we now know as asbestos was applied in the Middle Ages to a mythical stone which, once set alight, could never be put out; it came from the Greek compound ásbestos, literally ‘inextinguishable’, which was formed from the …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

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