cal·​ci·​fy | \ ˈkal-sə-ˌfī How to pronounce calcify (audio) \
calcified; calcifying

Definition of calcify

transitive verb

1 : to make calcareous by deposit of calcium salts
2 : to make inflexible or unchangeable

intransitive verb

1 : to become calcareous
2 : to become inflexible and changeless : harden

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Other Words from calcify

calcification \ ˌkal-​sə-​fə-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce calcification (audio) \ noun

What is the difference between ossify and calcify?

Medically speaking, ossify refers to the process by which bone forms, or by which tissue (usually cartilage) changes into bone. Ossification is a natural process that starts in utero and which comprises several different steps—one of which is the deposit of calcium salts, also known as calcification. Calcify, however, only refers to the deposit of calcium salts in soft tissue and is not synonymous with ossify. Ossification creates bone tissue, which is more than simply a deposit of calcium salts.

Both ossify and calcify have gained more general uses as well. Calcify refers to hardening, to becoming inflexible and unable to change:

What were once upstart revisionist currents calcified into self-regarding academic sub-specialties, sponsoring plenty of analysis but little fundamental debate.
— Sean Wilentz, The New Republic, 2 July 2001

Ossify refers to becoming inflexible, conventional, and resistant to change:

For these writers, the ossified ideologies of the world, imbedded in the communal imagination, block vision, and as artists they respond not by criticism from without but by confrontation from within.
—Robert Coover, The New York Times Book Review, 18 Mar. 1984

While ossify generally has a slightly more disparaging connotation to it than calcify does in general uses, our evidence shows that the two words are beginning to merge semantically.

Examples of calcify in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But his career never calcified into venerable poses or received wisdom. Los Angeles Times, "Appreciation: Max von Sydow, a pillar of world cinema, brought peerless depth and beauty to the screen," 9 Mar. 2020 Regardless of who said what, their opposite public images—Brian as tortured artist, Love as calculating businessman—were arguably calcified. Morgan Enos, Fortune, "How the Beach Boys became two separate, warring factions," 3 Mar. 2020 Bad bills — bills that calcify our state’s bad ideas, that repeat old mistakes, that tilt again at that old foil the U.S. Constitution — sail through on a legislative express lane. al, "Monuments rewrite sails through committee, Open Records Act left to die," 27 Feb. 2020 The above is a difficult reality to envision, particularly after twenty years of war in which antipathies have calcified. Elliot Ackerman, Time, "We'll Need Bold Imaginations to Make a Lasting Peace in Afghanistan," 21 Feb. 2020 The sweat calcified to his mirrors wouldn’t make for great selfies, either. Dallas News, "Dallas’ iconic Doug’s Gym is back — at least in glossy print and a new exhibition," 21 Feb. 2020 Outside the city, the gorgeous Hierve el Agua calcified waterfall remains one of the most popular day trips. Caitlin Morton, Condé Nast Traveler, "9 Spring Break Destinations for Grown-Ups," 21 Feb. 2020 Far from embracing Western-style market reforms, Xi calcified state control over the economy and stocked its bureaucracy with flunkies and yes-men. Charlie Campbell, Time, "The Coronavirus Outbreak Could Derail Xi Jinping’s Dreams of a Chinese Century," 6 Feb. 2020 Other groups of calcifying organisms, for whom the effects of acidification are more well-studied, show these wide-ranging differences. Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American, "Ocean Acidification Could Eat Away at Sharks’ Teeth and Scales," 19 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'calcify.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of calcify

1836, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Time Traveler for calcify

Time Traveler

The first known use of calcify was in 1836

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Statistics for calcify

Last Updated

19 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Calcify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for calcify


cal·​ci·​fy | \ ˈkal-sə-ˌfī How to pronounce calcify (audio) \
calcified; calcifying

Medical Definition of calcify

transitive verb

: to make calcareous by deposit of calcium salts

intransitive verb

: to become calcareous

More from Merriam-Webster on calcify

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for calcify

Britannica English: Translation of calcify for Arabic Speakers

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