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

Other Words from calcify

calcification \ ˌkal-​sə-​fə-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce calcify (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 a relentless pandemic, the influx of migrants at the southern border and the president’s stalled legislative agenda have served to further calcify the public’s negative perceptions. Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2022 Online, after all, is where strangers assume the worst of one another, where algorithms help calcify political polarization, and where nuance has been stripped from human interaction. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, 27 Jan. 2022 For director Joshua Zeman, who befriended Terry before his death, The Sons of Sam is a cautionary tale about the dangers of true-crime obsession — and a look at how the police and media calcify certain mythologies as fact. Brenna Ehrlich, Rolling Stone, 30 Apr. 2021 After three seasons of watching these dynamics calcify, the audience understands all this perfectly well. Caroline Framke,, 14 Nov. 2020 The social binary of introverts and extroverts has calcified over the last century. Ann Friedman, New York Times, 14 May 2020 As other sectors of the economy wither, mid- and low-wage workers could get pushed out of the housing market, calcifying the economic divide, O’Mara observed. Chase Difeliciantonio,, 6 Apr. 2020 By mixing sand and gelatin and adding cyanobacteria, the researchers induce an action where the bacteria process the gelatin and calcify it. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 27 Mar. 2020 But McCown was playing only because the starter, Carson Wentz, removed himself from the game after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit, a real-time decision between his health and calcified notions about postseason glory. Ben Shpigel, New York Times, 15 Jan. 2020 See More

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.

First Known Use of calcify

1836, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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The first known use of calcify was in 1836

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Cite this Entry

“Calcify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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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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