Pa·​leo·​lith·​ic ˌpā-lē-ə-ˈli-thik How to pronounce Paleolithic (audio)
especially British
ˌpa- How to pronounce Paleolithic (audio)
: of or relating to the earliest period of the Stone Age characterized by rough or chipped stone implements

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Since lithos means "stone" in Greek, the name Paleolithic was given to the older part of the Stone Age. The first known period of human culture, the Paleolithic actually covers almost all of human history, from the first use of stone tools around 2.5 million years ago until the invention of agriculture around 10,000 years ago. For almost all that time, humans used the very crudest of stone tools, produced by chipping away flakes of stone in order to make an edge for an ax or knife. Near the end of the period, animal bones and antlers were being used for tools, especially pointed tools, and sculpted figures and cave art were being produced. The Paleolithic gave way to the Mesolithic ("Middle Stone Age") period, with its tools made of polished stone, wood, and bone.

Examples of Paleolithic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Out of Darkness, which is showing in limited theaters, is a survival tale: Six Paleolithic characters against a dark force hunting them when the sun goes down. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, 9 Feb. 2024 All this evidence suggests Paleolithic women and men did not occupy differing roles or social realms. Sarah Lacy, Discover Magazine, 27 Nov. 2023 In true Paleolithic fashion, even meatfluencers struggle to resist the pull of plants. Manvir Singh, The New Yorker, 25 Sep. 2023 And while this modern gladiator likens his lifestyle to a more Paleolithic era, the Liver King is one of today's top fitness influencers, with millions of followers on Instagram and TikTok enthralled by his lifestyle and diet. Matt Gutman, ABC News, 13 May 2023 Decoration may have even motivated Paleolithic tailors. Ian Gilligan, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Apr. 2023 Rather, it was meant to animate the engravings as a form of Paleolithic entertainment. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 21 Apr. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'Paleolithic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


paleo- + -lithic

Note: See note at neolithic.

First Known Use

1865, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Paleolithic was in 1865

Dictionary Entries Near Paleolithic

Cite this Entry

“Paleolithic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


Pa·​leo·​lith·​ic ˌpā-lē-ə-ˈlith-ik How to pronounce Paleolithic (audio)
: of, relating to, or being the earliest period of the Stone Age marked by rough or crudely chipped stone implements
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