paleontology

noun pa·le·on·tol·o·gy \ ˌpā-lē-ˌän-ˈtä-lə-jē , -ən- , especially British ˌpa- \
Updated on: 12 Nov 2017

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

paleontological

play \ˌpā-lē-ˌän-tə-ˈlä-ji-kəl\ or less commonly paleontologic play \ˌpā-lē-ˌän-tə-ˈlä-jik\ adjective

paleontologist

play \ˌpā-lē-ˌän-ˈtä-lə-jist, -ən-\ noun

Recent Examples of paleontology from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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


PALEONTOLOGY Defined for English Language Learners

paleontology

noun

Definition of paleontology for English Language Learners

  • : 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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