USGS - science for a changing world

Science Features

Maps, Imagery, and Publications Hazards Newsroom Education Jobs Partnerships Library About USGS Social Media
Science Features
: Science Pick
EarthWord – Ore
USGS EarthWord of the Week
A reddish rock sits on a wooden railing.

A piece of limonite, an ore of iron. Image Credit: Alex Demas, USGS.

EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!

The EarthWord: Ore


  • The naturally occurring material from which a mineral or minerals of economic value can be extracted. Usually minerals, especially metals, are mined first in ore form, then refined later.


  • Ore is the result of the merging of two Old English words: ora, meaning “unworked metal,” and ar, meaning “brass,” “copper,” or “bronze.”

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Ores, and the minerals that are extracted from them, are quite important to the earth science community, and to you too, if you enjoy any sort of modern technology. They are a major source of the vast majority of our mineral commodities, from iron to aluminum to platinum. Smartphones, buildings, cars, and even hoverboards would not be possible without ores.


Next EarthWord: Think a mountain’s height is the only way to tell how tall it is? Think again!

Hungry for some science, but you don’t have time for a full-course research plate? Then check out USGS Science Snippets, our snack-sized science series that focuses on the fun, weird, and fascinating stories of USGS science.

Receive news and updates:

RSS Twitter Facebook YouTube

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Ask USGS
Page Last Modified: November 7, 2013