di·​met·​ro·​don | \ dī-ˈme-trə-ˌdän How to pronounce dimetrodon (audio) \
plural dimetrodons

Definition of dimetrodon

: an extinct, North American, primitive synapsid (genus Dimetrodon) of the early Permian comprising terrestrial carnivores of moderate size having both canine and shearing teeth and distinguished by a large dorsal crest resembling a sail supported by greatly elongated bony processes of the spinal column

Note: Dimetrodons are often mistaken for dinosaurs but were extinct more than 35 million years before dinosaurs appeared on earth.

First Known Use of dimetrodon

1885, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for dimetrodon

borrowed from New Latin, genus name, from Greek di- di- + -metros "having the extent, size, or limit indicated" (adjective derivative of métron "measure") + -odōn "having teeth of the kind specified," adjective derivative of ódōn, ódous "tooth" — more at measure entry 1, tooth

Note: The taxon was introduced by the American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope (1840-97) in "Description of Extinct Batrachia and Reptilia from the Permian formation of Texas (Read before the American Philosophical Society, April 5, 1878)," Paleontological Bulletin, no. 29 (1878), pp. 512-14 (also published with the same title and pagination in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 17, June, 1877 to June, 1878). The name, meaning approximately "having teeth of two sizes," presumably refers to the discrepancy in tooth size ("The anterior two teeth of the maxillary bone are larger than those that follow, the anterior exceeding even the first incisor").

Learn More About dimetrodon

Time Traveler for dimetrodon

Time Traveler

The first known use of dimetrodon was in 1885

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near dimetrodon

dimetric projection



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for dimetrodon

Cite this Entry

“Dimetrodon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dimetrodon. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!