pet·​ri·​fy | \ ˈpe-trə-ˌfī How to pronounce petrify (audio) \
petrified; petrifying

Definition of petrify

transitive verb

1 : to convert (organic matter) into stone or a substance of stony hardness by the infiltration of water and the deposition of dissolved mineral matter
2 : to make rigid or inert like stone:
a : to make lifeless or inactive : deaden slogans are apt to petrify a man's thinkingSaturday Rev.
b : to confound with fear, amazement, or awe a novel about an airline pilot that will petrify you— Martin Levin

intransitive verb

: to become stone or of stony hardness or rigidity

Examples of petrify in a Sentence

the processes that petrify wood The dead tree petrified into stone.
Recent Examples on the Web That’s devastating to the economy, however, and Trump is petrified that the tanking stock market will take his re-election hopes right along with it. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, 26 Mar. 2020 Many of the aides who helped people like her dad were petrified. Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, 25 Apr. 2020 Peter is petrified by the idea of keeping someone like Luke in the mix as long as Hannah Brown did. Ariana Romero,, 21 Jan. 2020 Because success is petrifying for people, whereas failure is easy to manage. Steff Yotka, Vogue, 18 Jan. 2020 But they intersect in Berlin during the depths of the Cold War, when the West was petrified that the Soviets would stage an unprovoked and undetected assault. Steven V. Roberts, Washington Post, 8 Nov. 2019 After a cataclysm petrified them, only their trunks remained. Wired, 18 Nov. 2019 The idea of sitting for days of interviews — just their two faces filling the screen — was petrifying to the Lewises. Los Angeles Times, 21 Oct. 2019 Gannon announced over 130 winners across the six participating villages, ranging from chilling landscapes to petrifying portraits., 1 Nov. 2019 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'petrify.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of petrify

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for petrify

Middle English petrifien (as past participle petrified), borrowed from Medieval Latin petrificāre, from Latin petra "rock, boulder, crag" (borrowed from Greek pétra) + -ificāre -ify — more at petro-

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The first known use of petrify was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Petrify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for petrify


pet·​ri·​fy | \ ˈpe-trə-ˌfī How to pronounce petrify (audio) \
petrified; petrifying

Kids Definition of petrify

1 : to change plant or animal matter into stone or something like stone petrified wood
2 : to frighten very much Lightning petrifies me.


pet·​ri·​fy | \ ˈpe-trə-ˌfī How to pronounce petrify (audio) \
petrified; petrifying

Medical Definition of petrify

transitive verb

: to convert (organic matter) into stone or a stony substance

intransitive verb

: to become stone or like stone

More from Merriam-Webster on petrify

Nglish: Translation of petrify for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of petrify for Arabic Speakers


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