fossil

adjective
fos·​sil | \ ˈfä-səl \

Definition of fossil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : preserved from a past geologic age fossil plants fossil water in an underground reservoir
2 : being or resembling a fossil
3 : of or relating to fossil fuel fossil energy sources

fossil

noun

Definition of fossil (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a remnant, impression, or trace of an organism of past geologic ages that has been preserved in the earth's crust — compare living fossil
2a : a person whose views are outmoded : fogy
b : something (such as a theory) that has become rigidly fixed
3 : an old word or word element preserved only by idiom (such as fro in to and fro)

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Did You Know?

A remnant, impression, or trace of an animal or plant of a past geologic age that has been preserved in the earth’s crust is called a fossil. Data from fossils are the primary source of information about the history of life on the earth. Only a small fraction of ancient organisms are preserved as fossils, and usually only organisms that have a solid skeleton or shell. Unaltered hard parts, such as the shells of clams, are relatively common in sedimentary rocks. The embedding of insects in amber and the preservation of mammoths in ice are rare but striking examples of the fossil preservation of soft tissues. Traces of organisms such as tracks and trails may also be preserved.

Examples of fossil in a Sentence

Noun

some old fossil who thinks that a boy and a girl shouldn't be together unsupervised until they are engaged

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In the show, which is available on Netflix , Norway’s Greens come to power and announce plans to end fossil energy production. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Green Politics and Global Instability," 22 Jan. 2019 Right now, Indonesia’s policies are allowing for deforestation, and are far too fossil-fuel centric. Nithin Coca, Vox, "The most important country for the global climate no one is talking about," 6 Dec. 2018 Building a brain To investigate, Muotri and his colleagues compared the genome of Neanderthals (previously extracted from fossil bones and sequenced by other researchers) with that of modern humans. Laura Geggel /, NBC News, "Why tiny Neanderthal brains are now growing in petri dishes," 27 June 2018 LiveScience reports that in 2002, for instance, a little fossil trail discovered in Canada was 520 million years old. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Oldest Footprints Show When Life On Earth Got Legs," 11 June 2018 Although the tracks are technically not fossil, they are treated as such under Utah code and can result in a felony charge for anyone who destroys the prehistoric relics. Fox News, "Tourists unknowingly toss dinosaur tracks into lake at a Utah state park," 8 May 2018 The OpenWings Project team will be working with a paleontologist to integrate fossil evidence, Chesser says. Kat Eschner, Smithsonian, "What We Can Learn From a New Bird Tree of Life," 21 Apr. 2018 Massimo Bernardi of the Museum of Sciences in Trento, Italy, and his colleagues looked in particular at fossil animal tracks (see picture above) in the Dolomite mountains, a part of the Alps to the north-east of Trento. The Economist, "Fossil tracks in the Alps help explain dinosaur evolution," 19 Apr. 2018 That model is based on a combination of fossil evidence from sites like Qafzeh and Skhul Cave in Israel and mitochondrial DNA studies that link most non-African populations to the group that left that continent 65,000 years ago. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Saudi Arabian fossil find puts finger on the story of human dispersal," 9 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Architect Jamie Fernández restored a 250-year-old mini-castle from ruins to create a unique home with fossils embedded in the walls. Ruth Bloomfield, WSJ, "For Sale: a Mini English Castle," 30 Jan. 2019 On a typical day in 2011, Chicago Field Museum volunteer Karen Nordquist was undertaking her usual task: sifting ancient mud through a mesh screen that captures small fossils. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "A New Shark Species Was Found in the Mud of Sue the T. Rex," 21 Jan. 2019 Tiny ocean fossils in each core were studied to help researchers identify if fresh water was introduced into the sea. Cliff Kapono, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Scripps scientists discover ancient glacier melt as source of climate cooling," 12 July 2018 Whether it’s cancer screenings or supernova specifics or fossil interpretation, having that history is both important and getting harder. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "What Happens When Science Just Disappears?," 25 Apr. 2018 Looking at a 150-year-old root of a tree or a 40-million-year-old piece of amber with an insect inside or a 3-million-year-old fossil of a shark tooth, I get filled with happiness. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "All About Monies, the 45-Year-Old Danish Jewelry Brand Landing at Dover Street Market Just in Time for the Holidays," 20 Nov. 2018 It's been a good year for amateur science, especially fossil hunters. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Rare Set of Ancient Giant Shark Teeth Found in Australia," 9 Aug. 2018 The two skeletons that would eventually reveal the tyrant's full glory were excavated by famed fossil hunter Barnum Brown in 1900 and 1902, respectively, and later described by paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1905. Brian Switek, Smithsonian, "How We Elected T. rex to be Our Tyrant Lizard King," 21 June 2018 The limited fossil evidence, though, suggests a deeper past. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Penguins," 6 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fossil.' 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 fossil

Adjective

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1736, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fossil

Adjective

earlier, "dug from the earth, preserved in the ground," borrowed from French & Latin; French fossile, borrowed from Latin fossilis "obtained by digging," from fodiō, fodere "to prod, jab, dig, remove by digging" (going back to Indo-European *bhedh-, *bhodh- "jab, dig," whence also Lithuanian bedù, bèsti "to stick, dig," Old Church Slavic bodǫ, bosti "to prick, stab," Hittite paddai "digs") + -tilis "produced by, characterized by (the action of the verb)"

Noun

derivative of fossil entry 1, or borrowed directly from Latin fossilis

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Statistics for fossil

Last Updated

9 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for fossil

The first known use of fossil was in 1665

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More Definitions for fossil

fossil

noun

English Language Learners Definition of fossil

: something (such as a leaf, skeleton, or footprint) that is from a plant or animal which lived in ancient times and that you can see in some rocks
informal : a person whose ideas are very old-fashioned or out-of-date

fossil

noun
fos·​sil | \ ˈfä-səl \

Kids Definition of fossil

: a trace or print or the remains of a plant or animal of a past age preserved in earth or rock

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More from Merriam-Webster on fossil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fossil

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fossil

Spanish Central: Translation of fossil

Nglish: Translation of fossil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fossil for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fossil

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