pa·​le·​on·​tol·​o·​gy | \ ˌpā-lē-ˌän-ˈtä-lə-jē How to pronounce paleontology (audio) , -ən-, especially British ˌpa-\

Definition of paleontology

: a science dealing with the life of past geological periods as known from fossil remains To many Americans, and nearly all young ones, paleontology can be summed up in one word: dinosaurs.— Jerry A. Coyne

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Other Words from paleontology

paleontological \ ˌpā-​lē-​ˌän-​tə-​ˈlä-​ji-​kəl How to pronounce paleontological (audio) \ or less commonly paleontologic \ ˌpā-​lē-​ˌän-​tə-​ˈlä-​jik How to pronounce paleontologic (audio) \ adjective
paleontologist \ ˌpā-​lē-​ˌän-​ˈtä-​lə-​jist How to pronounce paleontologist (audio) , -​ən-​ \ noun

Did You Know?

Until the 1820s, hardly anyone even suspected that dinosaurs had ever existed. In the years since, paleontology has sought to discover the entire history of life on earth, from the era of single-celled organisms up into the human era. Paleontologists continue to make remarkable discoveries, such as that a huge meteorite that fell in the Gulf of Mexico wiped out the dinosaurs—all except the birds, the only surviving dinosaurs. "Radiometric dating" can reveal the age (often tens of millions of years) of a rock or fossil or a tiny grain of pollen by measuring how much its radioactive elements have disintegrated. The study of molecules of DNA, RNA, and proteins has also become important for dating. Paleontologists often consult with geologists searching for oil, gas, and coal deposits, since all these "fossil fuels" were formed from plant and animal remains.

Examples of paleontology in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Discover asked Hesham Sallam, lead author and founder and director of the Mansoura University Vertebrate Paleontology (MUVP) program, to explain why Mansourasaurus is bridging the paleontology world in more ways than one. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "State of Science: How Paleontologists Are Finding Fossils in Surprising Places," 1 Jan. 2019 Only rigorous empirical work that shows consistent and mutually supporting results in empirical fields such as paleontology, field biology, biochemistry and genetics can establish the true course of evolution. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘Evolutionary Math and Just-So Stories’," 7 Sep. 2018 During the summer months, PaleoAdventures hosts one-, two-, three- and five-day digs and welcomes everyone ages 10 and up to join in the family-friendly fun aimed at educating participants about paleontology. Susan B. Barnes, USA TODAY, "Dinosaurs in real-life: Where to find them around the US," 26 June 2018 Is entering college in the fall to study paleontology. Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post, "‘Finally!’ Dinosaur lovers descend on the Smithsonian’s newly renovated fossil hall," 9 June 2019 The 15-minute lightning rounds of multiple-choice questions covered topics from paleontology to SpongeBob SquarePants. Yoree Koh, WSJ, "The Tech Whiz Behind Vine and HQ Trivia Made Millions in His 20s. He Was Dead by 34.," 15 Feb. 2019 The natural history museum houses some of Brazil’s most precious pieces of archeology, zoology, anthropology, and paleontology—roughly 20 million items in total. Lale Arikoglu, Condé Nast Traveler, "Brazil Mourns Loss of Rio de Janeiro's National Museum After Devastating Fire," 4 Sep. 2018 Not monetary wise, but in the wonderful satisfaction of contributing something the world of scientists and paleontology has never seen before. Fox News, "Adm. Mike Mullen on ex-intel officials keeping clearances; Mulvaney on potential storm clouds ahead for Trump economy," 19 Aug. 2018 While several other naturalists of the early 19th century also pursued a numerical approach to taxonomy, Bronn took it further than anyone else, and championed it as a new methodology for paleontology. David Sepkoski, The Atlantic, "19th-Century Paleontology Was at the Forefront of Big Data," 14 Feb. 2018

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

1833, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for paleontology

French paléontologie, from palé- pale- + Greek onta existing things (from neuter plural of ont-, ōn, present participle of einai to be) + French -logie -logy — more at is

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Statistics for paleontology

Last Updated

29 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for paleontology

The first known use of paleontology was in 1833

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English Language Learners Definition of paleontology

: the science that deals with the fossils of animals and plants that lived very long ago especially in the time of dinosaurs

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