fos·​sil | \ ˈfä-səl How to pronounce fossil (audio) \

Definition of fossil

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : preserved from a past geologic age fossil plants fossil water in an underground reservoir
2 : being or resembling a fossil
3 : of or relating to fossil fuel fossil energy sources



Definition of fossil (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a remnant, impression, or trace of an organism of past geologic ages that has been preserved in the earth's crust — compare living fossil
2a : a person whose views are outmoded : fogy
b : something (such as a theory) that has become rigidly fixed
3 : an old word or word element preserved only by idiom (such as fro in to and fro)

Keep scrolling for more

Did you know?

A remnant, impression, or trace of an animal or plant of a past geologic age that has been preserved in the earth’s crust is called a fossil. Data from fossils are the primary source of information about the history of life on the earth. Only a small fraction of ancient organisms are preserved as fossils, and usually only organisms that have a solid skeleton or shell. Unaltered hard parts, such as the shells of clams, are relatively common in sedimentary rocks. The embedding of insects in amber and the preservation of mammoths in ice are rare but striking examples of the fossil preservation of soft tissues. Traces of organisms such as tracks and trails may also be preserved.

Examples of fossil in a Sentence

Noun some old fossil who thinks that a boy and a girl shouldn't be together unsupervised until they are engaged
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Despite the technological advances that renewable sources of energy can provide, the use of fossil fuels is not coming to an end nor is the future for those working in the petroleum industry. Ian Palmer, Forbes, 18 Sep. 2021 In the past decade, though, as the scope of the crisis became clear, Democrats began pressing for policies to cut U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, and Republicans were reluctant to commit. Eliza Griswold, The New Yorker, 16 Sep. 2021 Currently 85% of carbon used in such products comes from fossil fuels, the report found. Carey L. Biron, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Sep. 2021 Meanwhile, some institutions are not only divesting funds from fossil fuels—which Fancy criticizes as futile—but reinvesting them in climate solutions. Eve Driver, Quartz, 15 Sep. 2021 Harvard University will divest itself from holdings in fossil fuels, President Lawrence Bacow said Thursday. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 15 Sep. 2021 These two preconditions seem more important when considered for fossil fuels, which furnish most primary energy in our industrial society. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 14 Sep. 2021 The British company on Tuesday said Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, the former CEO of RWE Renewables, would help lead its pivot away from fossil fuels and into low-carbon energy. Sarah Mcfarlane, WSJ, 14 Sep. 2021 The current proposal could provide billions of dollars to improve forest management and promote conservation, alongside programs to transition the country away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Alexei Koseff, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But Biden also wants the bill to include an aggressive climate policy that would compel utilities to stop burning fossil fuels and switch to wind, solar, or nuclear energy, sources that do not emit the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet., 19 Sep. 2021 Many new renewables produce cheaper power than the least expensive fossil fuels, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Sadek Wahba, Forbes, 16 Sep. 2021 The transition to net zero will produce more distressed and stranded assets, particularly projects and infrastructure built around fossil fuels. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, 15 Sep. 2021 As carbon-emitting activities go, performing or attending a concert hardly compares with burning fossil fuels or raising large herds of livestock. Heather Landy, Quartz, 15 Sep. 2021 Alcohol was arguably as essential to the early American republic as fossil fuels are to our way of life today. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 14 Sep. 2021 The measure’s broader goal is to phase out power generated by climate-damaging fossil fuels and put the state on a path to 100% carbon-free energy by 2050. Dan Petrella,, 10 Sep. 2021 As for curtailing the damage, Dahl says the most important thing people can do is to cut carbon emissions — and most scientists agree that starts with using fewer fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources. Susan Young,, 9 Sep. 2021 Leakey was taking a break from fossil-hunting in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge, and Simpson had sailed to Europe weeks earlier to share with European archaeologists Calico’s best surface artifacts. Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times, 14 July 2021

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

See More

First Known Use of fossil


1665, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1736, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fossil


earlier, "dug from the earth, preserved in the ground," borrowed from French & Latin; French fossile, borrowed from Latin fossilis "obtained by digging," from fodiō, fodere "to prod, jab, dig, remove by digging" (going back to Indo-European *bhedh-, *bhodh- "jab, dig," whence also Lithuanian bedù, bèsti "to stick, dig," Old Church Slavic bodǫ, bosti "to prick, stab," Hittite paddai "digs") + -tilis "produced by, characterized by (the action of the verb)"


derivative of fossil entry 1, or borrowed directly from Latin fossilis

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About fossil

Statistics for fossil

Last Updated

21 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Fossil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for fossil



English Language Learners Definition of fossil

: something (such as a leaf, skeleton, or footprint) that is from a plant or animal which lived in ancient times and that you can see in some rocks
: a person whose ideas are very old-fashioned or out-of-date


fos·​sil | \ ˈfä-səl How to pronounce fossil (audio) \

Kids Definition of fossil

: a trace or print or the remains of a plant or animal of a past age preserved in earth or rock

More from Merriam-Webster on fossil

Nglish: Translation of fossil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fossil for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about fossil


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!