Etymology
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anthrax (n.)

late 14c., "severe boil or carbuncle," from Latin anthrax "virulent ulcer," from Greek anthrax "charcoal, live coal," also "carbuncle," which is of unknown origin; probably [Beekes] from a pre-Greek language. The specific sense in reference to a malignant disease in sheep and cattle (and occasionally humans) is from 1876.

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anthracomancy (n.)

"divination by inspection of burning coals," 1895, from Latinized combining form of Greek anthrax "live coal" (see anthrax) + -mancy "divination by means of."

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anthracite (n.)

"non-bituminous coal, hard coal," 1812, earlier (c. 1600) a type of ruby-like gem described by Pliny, from Latin anthracites "bloodstone, semi-precious gem," from Greek anthrakitēs "coal-like," from anthrax (genitive anthrakos) "live coal" (see anthrax). Deep black with a brilliant luster, it is nearly pure carbon and burns almost without a flame and formerly was mined extensively in eastern Pennsylvania and south Wales. Related: Anthractic (adj.), anthracitic.

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coal (n.)

Old English col "charcoal; live coal, piece of wood or other combustible substance, either burning or having been burned," from Proto-Germanic *kula(n) (source also of Old Frisian kole, Middle Dutch cole, Dutch kool, Old High German chol, German Kohle, Old Norse kol), from PIE root *g(e)u-lo- "live coal" (source also of Irish gual "coal").

Meaning "solid mineral consisting of fossilized carbon, combustible and used as fuel," is from mid-13c. The thing itself is mentioned 370 B.C.E. by Theophrastus in his treatise "On Stones" under the name lithos anthrakos (see anthrax). Traditionally good luck, coal was given as a New Year's gift in England, said to guarantee a warm hearth for the coming year.

The phrase drag (or rake) over the coals was a reference to the treatment meted out to heretics by Christians. To carry coals "do dirty work," also "submit to insult" is from 1520s.

To carry coals to Newcastle "add to that of which there is already an abundance, do unnecessary labor " (c. 1600) is a local variant on an ancient class of expression: Latin had in litus harenas fundere "pour sand on the beach," in silvam ligna ferre "carry wood to the woods;" Greek glauk eis Athenas "owls to Athens." Newcastle is in the midst of a great coal-producing region. The ancient view is not necessarily the modern one. A historian, noting that the medieval English exported manufactured cloth to the Low Countries, where weaving was a major industry, writes, "it is always sensible to send coals to Newcastle or owls to Athens if you can be sure of underselling the locals" [George D. Painter, "William Caxton," 1976]

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