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

But recently, fossil evidence has indicated otherwise: A human jawbone in Israel, reported last year to date back to 180,000 years ago, and a skull fragment in Greece that’s even older, indicate earlier human migrations. Quanta Magazine, "Fossil DNA Reveals New Twists in Modern Human Origins," 29 Aug. 2019 Scientists have discovered fossil evidence of a giant penguin (Crossvallia waiparensis) in New Zealand. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "Prehistoric Monster Penguins: Awesome, Terrifying, or Both?," 14 Aug. 2019 Linda is Alaska Native and uses northwest woods, fossil walrus ivory and beads to create her one-of-a-kind earrings and necklaces. Anchorage Daily News, "Here is what you can expect for First Friday this week," 6 June 2019 However, in 2018, paleoanthropologists found that a juvenile fossil foot from the same species was much closer to that of climbing apes. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Feet," 8 May 2019 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 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 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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

As is true of most climate policy, there is likely no silver bullet for turning the DNC from a fossil-fuel-donation-accepting corporate entity into a representative committee responsive to the needs of its voters. Natasha Geiling, The New Republic, "Make Democratic Leaders Pay for Their Climate Cowardice," 3 Sep. 2019 At worst, this perpetuates the kind of unsustainable, fossil-fuel-intensive agriculture the IPCC is warning us about. Timothy A. Wise, WIRED, "Big Ag Is Sabotaging Progress on Climate Change," 28 Aug. 2019 Warren on Monday rolled out a trade policy that would propose nine preconditions for U.S. trading partners to meet to participate in agreements, including an end to fossil-fuel subsidies. Sara Burnett, Anchorage Daily News, "Stakes rising for 2020 Dems ahead of 2nd presidential debate," 29 July 2019 More than 80% of global energy still comes from fossil fuels (and carbon capture buries only about 1% of those fossil-fuel emissions). Akshat Rathi, Quartz, "Extreme temperatures fuel a dangerous climate feedback loop," 26 July 2019 Widely associated with climate-change skepticism, unquestioning support of the fossil-fuel industry, and the blind harvesting of resources, the GOP’s record on conservation is a bit rocky. Kayla Bartsch, National Review, "Republicans Take an Important Step Back into the Environmental Debate," 15 July 2019 This ungainly design has apparently worked, however, since pelican fossils have been found dating back more than 30 million years. Ernie Cowan, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pelican odd by design, graceful in flight," 13 June 2019 Indisputable fossils and artifacts from human ancestors between 700,000 and 1.5 million years old have been found at sites up to — but not exceeding — 1.49 miles, just below the hypoxia threshold. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "The World Is Our Niche," 3 June 2019 That’s because in most places in the world, the costs of solar and wind power are now lower than new-build fossil-fuel power plants. Akshat Rathi, Quartz, "SoftBank’s first bet in energy storage is a startup that stacks concrete blocks," 14 Aug. 2019

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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