fossil

1 of 2

adjective

fos·​sil ˈfä-səl How to pronounce fossil (audio)
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

2 of 2

noun

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
2
a
: 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)

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
This presents a challenge for modern scientists because bones are all that typically survive in the fossil record. Jordan Pearson, New York Times, 29 May 2024 That’s what stays in the medical record, health care’s fossil layer. Eric Boodman, STAT, 21 May 2024
Noun
The following summer, Lyson’s team, with help from the children, went to the site to excavate the fossil. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 June 2024 The following summer, Lyson and the boys returned to the site with a team of paleontologists to dig up the fossil. Raven Brunner, Peoplemag, 4 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for fossil 

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Adjective

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1736, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of fossil was in 1665

Cite this Entry

“Fossil.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fossil. Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

fossil

1 of 2 adjective
fos·​sil ˈfäs-əl How to pronounce fossil (audio)
: being or resembling a fossil

fossil

2 of 2 noun
1
: a trace or print or the remains of a plant or animal of a past age preserved in earth or rock
2
a
: a person whose ideas are out-of-date
b
: something that has become fixed and cannot be changed

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