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I am a bit confused on where to use "ashes" and where "cinder". Do both of them have the same meaning?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Ashes is the more common word, and is used in a wider variety of contexts, so most often you would want to use it. Generally speaking, ash and ashes refer to what remains after wood and similar materials have burned completely, typically the gray powdery material. Cinder is used for a harder discrete piece of material that may have been only been partially burned, or may even still be burning (i.e. ember). In a wood-burning locomotive, for example, one would think of the ashes as being in the bottom of the firebox, and cinders occasionally being emitted from the smokestack along with the smoke.

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In Hawai'i, we refer to volcanic gravel as "cinder" while larger rocks are referred to as "clinker." "Ash" is used to refer to fine rock powder. "Cinder cones" are common features on the Big Island of Hawai'i.

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