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

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 The higher priority is maximizing the inherent flexibility of the fossil thermal fleet. David Roberts, Vox, "Solar power’s greatest challenge was discovered 10 years ago. It looks like a duck.," 31 Mar. 2018 There is also fossil evidence of marine extinctions that could be explained by significant ocean acidification, the researchers say. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "End-Cretaceous asteroid impact seems to have juiced seafloor volcanoes," 8 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

So far researchers have found fossils from 300 A. afarensis individuals—though very few children—and the species lasted more than 900,000 years, three times as long as our own has walked the earth. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Ancient Toddler Was at Home on the Ground and in the Trees," 5 July 2018 Located at 3380 Beaver Road, the park is known for its indoor and outdoor exhibits of fossils, a bison herd that is viewable daily, hiking trails and camping. Nancy Daly, Cincinnati.com, "Fish moved from lake at Big Bone Lick State Historic Site," 4 July 2018 The wooden marvel, made for Burning Man by artist Jerry Snyder, honors Nevada’s state fossil, a gigantic sea reptile that once swam beneath the surface of a massive inland sea. Harriot Manley, SFChronicle.com, "Burning Man comes and goes, but the experience is year-round in Reno," 28 June 2018 The three offices for fossil, nuclear and renewable energy were each targeted with severe cuts in back-to-back White House budget proposals. Dino Grandoni, Washington Post, "The Energy 202: Trump's plan to overhaul government would give Interior and EPA more power," 22 June 2018 When Tongues Fly Some of the fossils, however, had more complicated tongue bones. National Geographic, "Why T. Rex Couldn't Waggle Its Tongue," 20 June 2018 That is in contradistinction to Cambrian fossils, among which are found representatives of all the main animal groups (annelids, arthropods, brachiopods, chordates, cnidarians, echinoderms, molluscs and so on) that are around today. The Economist, "The Cambrian explosion was caused by a lack of oxygen, not an abundance," 7 June 2018 But those species were missing in the postimpact fossils, Field and colleagues report today in Current Biology. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "This quaillike creature was the only bird to survive the dinosaur-killing asteroid impact," 24 May 2018 But the Jurassic Park franchise is no fossil, so Universal is combining the old ride’s DNA with new technology to create Jurassic World Ride, opening sometime in 2019. azcentral, "AZ Memo: ASU finding a cure for dog cancer; salad safety warning remains; last chance for Jurassic Park ride," 11 May 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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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

: 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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