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From Middle English brimston, bremston, corrupted forms of brinston, brenston, bernston, from Old English brynstān ‎(brimstone, literally burn-stone), equivalent to brian +‎ stone, or burn +‎ stone. Cognate with Scots brunstane ‎(brimstone), Icelandic brennisteinn ‎(sulfur, brimstone), German Bernstein ‎(amber). Compare also brimfire. More at burn, stone.

Once a synonym for "sulfur," the word is now restricted to Biblical usage.


brimstone ‎(countable and uncountable, plural brimstones)

  1. Sulfur.
  2. The sulfur of Hell; Hell, damnation.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 7, Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      I made a speaking trumpet of my hands and commenced to whoop “Ahoy!” and “Hello!” at the top of my lungs. […] The Colonel woke up, and, after asking what in brimstone was the matter, opened his mouth and roared “Hi!” and “Hello!” like the bull of Bashan.
  3. (archaic) Used attributively as an intensifier in exclamations.
  4. The butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni of the Pieridae family.
Brimstone butterfly

Derived terms[edit]



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  • 'Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.' — Genesis, 19:24, King James Version
  • 'And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that {are} with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.' — Ezekiel, 38:22 King James Version
  • 'For griefe thereof, and diuelish despight, / From his infernall fournace forth he threw / Huge flames, that dimmed all the heauens light, / Enrold in duskish smoke and brimstone blew.' — Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene
  • 'Till, as a signal giv'n, th' uplifted Spear / Of their great Sultan waving to direct / Thir course, in even ballance down they light / On the firm brimstone, and fill all the Plain; / A multitude.' — John Milton, Paradise Lost
  • 'Weel I wot I wad be broken if I were to gie sic weight to the folk that come to buy our pepper and brimstone, and suchlike sweetmeats.' — Walter Scott, The Antiquary
  • '[W]hen he [the Devil] is aweary of vice, and aweary of virtue, used up as to brimstone, and used up as to bliss [...]' — Charles Dickens,Hard Times
  • 'Don't think, young man, that we go to the expense of flower of brimstone and molasses, just to purify them.' — Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
  • 'The brimstone, too, which burns there in such prodigious quantity fills all hell with its intolerable stench.' — James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • 'But the sulphurous brimstone which burns in hell is a substance which is specially designed to burn for ever and for ever with unspeakable fury.' — James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man