fossil

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

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

Isaac Vergun is a quiet sixteen-year-old who devoted his bar mitzvah project to a fossil-fuel divestment campaign in his hometown of Beaverton, Oregon. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "Do Americans Have a Constitutional Right to a Livable Planet? Meet the 21 Young People Who Say They Do," 21 Mar. 2019 Interestingly, scientists have found fossils of other Tyrannosaurs that are much older—about 150 million years old, to be exact—that are around the same size as Moros. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Meet This Tiny Ancestor of the Fearsome T. Rex," 21 Feb. 2019 Scientists have just discovered the fossils of two bizarre new creatures that roamed the oceans 500 million years ago. Fernando Ramirez, Houston Chronicle, "Peer inside the discovery of the world's first 'manta ray nursery' off the Texas coast," 21 June 2018 Many fossils of critters made of calcium carbonate were altered over time, making them unreliable sources of information. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Dinosaur-killing impact + volcanoes kept the Earth hot for 100,000 years," 26 May 2018 The oldest known fossils of our species are about 300,000 years old. Time, "The Oldest Human Fossil Outside of Africa Has Been Found," 25 Jan. 2018 But scientists have lately discovered fossils of organisms that existed over 4 billion years old. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Data Sheet—How to Stay Safe from Killer Robots? Stand In a Puddle," 23 Jan. 2018 Tellingly, at one point the museum had to crowdfund money to repair the base of one of its dinosaur fossils. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Millions of Priceless Artifacts Destroyed in Disastrous Museum Fire," 5 Sep. 2018 And then the actor playing Tibby, Alex Lawther, wanted Tibby's fossil collection. Yvonne Villarreal, latimes.com, "'Howards End' star Hayley Atwell was drawn to the vitality of the story exploring class differences," 19 June 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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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 How to pronounce fossil (audio) \

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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