ptero·​dac·​tyl ˌter-ə-ˈdak-tᵊl How to pronounce pterodactyl (audio)
: any of various pterosaurs (suborder Pterodactyloidea) of the Late Jurassic and Cretaceous having a rudimentary tail and a beak with reduced dentition
broadly : pterosaur

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Wembanyama reportedly stands 7 feet 5 in shoes, with a pterodactyl-like wingspan of 8 feet, and will immediately become the tallest player in the NBA next season. Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press, 3 Mar. 2023 Somewhere in the Late Cretaceous period, a pterodactyl is probably cowering in shame. Bob Mcmanaman, The Arizona Republic, 1 Mar. 2023 But those intrepid 19th-century explorers did discover other super-sized creatures: snakes and fish that could swallow a full-sized man, the world's biggest ants and spiders, massive otters and anteaters, and an eagle with talons like a pterodactyl. Joe Yogerst, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2023 This time, the dinosaurs are angrier, more destructive (a pterodactyl attacks a plane!), and bigger. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 10 Feb. 2022 Fur and skin, unless in an exaggerated circumstance (like flying on the back of a pterodactyl), fail to show movement and tangible texture. Courtney Howard, Variety, 28 Jan. 2022 An unrealized Jim Henson film in which the titular character, a fluffy pterodactyl, vanquishes a gremlin based on Lee Atwater. David Kamp, The New Yorker, 1 Dec. 2021 His antic ads for the Little Caesars pizza chain included one in which a pizza box turns into a pterodactyl. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, 30 Sep. 2021 But the hotel shut its doors for good a few years ago, a hulking edifice that some liken to a rearing pterodactyl but that others just call a fire trap., 30 July 2021 See More

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

Word History


New Latin Pterodactylus, genus of reptiles, from Greek pteron wing + daktylos finger — more at feather

First Known Use

1829, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pterodactyl was in 1829

Dictionary Entries Near pterodactyl

Cite this Entry

“Pterodactyl.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


ptero·​dac·​tyl ˌter-ə-ˈdak-tᵊl How to pronounce pterodactyl (audio)
: any of various extinct flying reptiles having a featherless membrane extending from the body along the arms and forming the supporting surface of the wings

from scientific Latin Pterodactylus "pterodactyl," from Greek pteron "wing" and Greek daktylos "finger"

More from Merriam-Webster on pterodactyl

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