tet·​ra·​pod ˈte-trə-ˌpäd How to pronounce tetrapod (audio)
: a vertebrate (such as an amphibian, a bird, or a mammal) with two pairs of limbs

Did you know?

The earliest tetrapods, or "four-footed" animals, were mammal-like reptiles that evolved before the rise of the dinosaurs and ranged from mouse-sized to cow-sized. Today the tetrapods include the reptiles, the amphibians, the birds, and the mammals—including humans. Though the fish aren't classified as tetrapods, it's quite possible that our own limbs began as paired fins hundreds of millions of years ago.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web To help solve this mystery, scientists created a robot based off fossils of Orobates pabsti, a plant-eating tetrapod about 33 inches long (85 centimeters). Charles Choi, Discover Magazine, 17 Jan. 2019 The bite would have been the largest of any tetrapod (the animal group that includes mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians). Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 30 June 2010 The exact species and classification have yet to be determined, but the fossil is a tetrapod -- meaning animal with four legs -- and could be an early ancestor of either reptiles or mammals. Sherry Liang, CNN, 5 Nov. 2021 This fossil appears to be an early amniote, which is a land-living vertebrate that lays eggs, according to Adam Huttenlocker, an outside specialist on the team who researches early tetrapod fossils and is an assistant professor at USC. Sherry Liang, CNN, 5 Nov. 2021 Previous research had shown that HoxD13 is active in the developing tetrapod limb when the wrists and digits form. John A. Long, Scientific American, 20 May 2020 This gave rise to the tetrapods, or four-limbed vertebrates, that included dinosaurs, land animals and eventually humans. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 18 Mar. 2020 This tetrapod, dubbed Parmastega aelidae, looked similar to a crocodile, except its protruding eyes were on top of its head. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 23 Oct. 2019 When this tetrapod was alive, neither threat existed yet. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 23 Oct. 2019 See More

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

Word History


New Latin tetrapodus, from Greek tetrapod-, tetrapous four-footed, from tetra- + pod-, pous foot — more at foot

First Known Use

circa 1891, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tetrapod was circa 1891

Dictionary Entries Near tetrapod

Cite this Entry

“Tetrapod.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tetrapod. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

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