Middle English, from Medieval Latin minerale, from neuter of mineralis
- 1: ore
- 2: an inorganic substance (as in the ash of calcined tissue)
- 3: obsolete : mine
- 4: something neither animal nor vegetable
- 5:a : a solid homogeneous crystalline chemical element or compound that results from the inorganic processes of nature; broadly : any of various naturally occurring homogeneous substances (as stone, coal, salt, sulfur, sand, petroleum, water, or natural gas) obtained usually from the ground
- b : a synthetic substance having the chemical composition and crystalline form and properties of a naturally occurring mineral
- 6: plural British : mineral water
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance that is formed through geological processes and that has a characteristic chemical composition, a highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not have a specific chemical composition. Minerals range in composition from pure elements and simple salts to very complex silicates with thousands of known forms. The study of minerals is called mineralogy.
To be classified as a true mineral, a substance must be a solid and have a crystalline structure. It must also be a naturally occurring, homogeneous substance with a defined chemical composition. Traditional definitions excluded organically derived material. However, the International Mineralogical Association in 1995 adopted a new definition:
- a mineral is an element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes.