Definition of fossil in English:


Pronunciation /ˈfäsəl/ /ˈfɑsəl/

See synonyms for fossil

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  • 1The remains or impression of a prehistoric organism preserved in petrified form or as a mold or cast in rock.

    ‘sites rich in fossils’
    • ‘a fossil fish’
    • ‘Very few dinosaur fossils are actually found near this boundary.’
    • ‘Scientific testing has determined that the oldest dinosaur fossils are hundreds of millions of years old.’
    • ‘Almost no dinosaur fossils have been found from that time, particularly in North America.’
    • ‘During that time new hominid fossils have been discovered in Africa.’
    • ‘Other marine trace fossils, together with marine bivalves, have been described from the unit as a whole.’
    • ‘The oldest true vertebrate fossils date back 530 million years.’
    • ‘Shallow marine invertebrate fossils occur throughout the formation, but are mainly concentrated in four broad intervals.’
    • ‘Marine rocks commonly contain plant fossils but they are outnumbered by more common and spectacular shelly invertebrate fossils.’
    • ‘The decapod fossils are preserved in remarkable detail as molds and as body fossils.’
    • ‘Li and Ding interpreted such structures as metazoan trace fossils.’
    • ‘Then we use the dating of a recently discovered hominid fossil as a calibration point.’
    • ‘Consider three separately discovered archaic Homo sapiens fossils dating to around 150,000 years ago.’
    • ‘Carboniferous and Permian strata often contain useful index fossils belonging to this group.’
    • ‘There is an abundance of shelly animal fossils.’
    • ‘All of these sites have yielded remarkably preserved Cambrian fossils, in large part due to rapid burial.’
    • ‘Most geologists are familiar with the occurrence of plant compression fossils in bedded sedimentary rocks.’
    • ‘Two years ago, scientists described 5-million-year-old albatross fossils representing five different species.’
    • ‘Until recently, however, no sponge body fossils had been identified or described from this fauna.’
    • ‘I decided that my own role could be to collect plant fossils for their research and museum collections.’
    • ‘Pasting on a fake smile, I nodded fervently, no longer eager to study silly fossils of dead organisms.’
    petrified remains, petrified impression, cast, impression, mould, remnant, relic
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    1. 1.1derogatory, humorous A person or thing that is outdated or resistant to change.
      • ‘he can be a cantankerous old fossil at times’
      • ‘Most of the other scholars were old fossils that seemed so fragile that the slightest breath of wind would keel them over.’
      • ‘Who would take care of that crazy old fossil then?’
      • ‘For those of you who are surprised that a grumpy old fossil like me actually works on a computer, it is all t'Editor's fault.’
      fogey, old fogey, conservative, traditionalist, conventionalist, diehard, conformist, bourgeois, museum piece, fossil, dinosaur, troglodyte
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    2. 1.2A word or phrase that has become obsolete except in set phrases or forms, e.g. hue in hue and cry.
      ‘It has usually been represented in ModE by gh, leaving its silent fossils in such words as dough, night, through, thought, thorough.’
      • ‘A plaintiff, therefore, was originally just a person who made a complaint, but the word became a fossil of legal terminology many centuries ago.’
      • ‘Old words become linguistic fossils as new words replace them in response to events and developments in a rapidly changing world.’


Mid 16th century (denoting a fossilized fish found, and believed to have lived, underground): from French fossile, from Latin fossilis ‘dug up’, from fodere ‘dig’.