Ol·​i·​go·​cene ˈä-li-gō-ˌsēn How to pronounce Oligocene (audio) ˈō- How to pronounce Oligocene (audio)
: of, relating to, or being an epoch of the Tertiary between the Eocene and Miocene or the corresponding series of rocks see Geologic Time Table
Oligocene noun

Word History


borrowed from German Oligocän (now Oligozän), from oligo- oligo- + -cän -cene

Note: The term was introduced by the German geologist Heinrich Ernst Beyrich (1815-96) in a report "on the position of the Hessian tertiary formations" ("über die Stellung der Hessischen Tertiärbildungen") read to the Physical-Mathematical Class of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences, Berlin, on November 27, 1854 (published in Bericht über die zur Bekanntmachung geeigneten Verhandlungen der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin aus dem Jahre 1854, p. 664).

First Known Use

circa 1859, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Oligocene was circa 1859

Dictionary Entries Near Oligocene

Cite this Entry

“Oligocene.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Oligocene. Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


: of, relating to, or being an epoch of the Tertiary period of geological history or the corresponding series of rocks see geologic time
Oligocene noun
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