Definition of fossil in English:



  • 1The remains or impression of a prehistoric plant or animal embedded in rock and preserved in petrified form.

    ‘sites rich in fossils’
    [as modifier] ‘a fossil fish’
    • ‘Consider three separately discovered archaic Homo sapiens fossils dating to around 150,000 years ago.’
    • ‘Li and Ding interpreted such structures as metazoan trace fossils.’
    • ‘Very few dinosaur fossils are actually found near this boundary.’
    • ‘Marine rocks commonly contain plant fossils but they are outnumbered by more common and spectacular shelly invertebrate fossils.’
    • ‘Pasting on a fake smile, I nodded fervently, no longer eager to study silly fossils of dead organisms.’
    • ‘I decided that my own role could be to collect plant fossils for their research and museum collections.’
    • ‘Other marine trace fossils, together with marine bivalves, have been described from the unit as a whole.’
    • ‘During that time new hominid fossils have been discovered in Africa.’
    • ‘Most geologists are familiar with the occurrence of plant compression fossils in bedded sedimentary rocks.’
    • ‘Then we use the dating of a recently discovered hominid fossil as a calibration point.’
    • ‘Carboniferous and Permian strata often contain useful index fossils belonging to this group.’
    • ‘The oldest true vertebrate fossils date back 530 million years.’
    • ‘Two years ago, scientists described 5-million-year-old albatross fossils representing five different species.’
    • ‘Almost no dinosaur fossils have been found from that time, particularly in North America.’
    • ‘The decapod fossils are preserved in remarkable detail as molds and as body fossils.’
    • ‘All of these sites have yielded remarkably preserved Cambrian fossils, in large part due to rapid burial.’
    • ‘Scientific testing has determined that the oldest dinosaur fossils are hundreds of millions of years old.’
    • ‘Shallow marine invertebrate fossils occur throughout the formation, but are mainly concentrated in four broad intervals.’
    • ‘There is an abundance of shelly animal fossils.’
    • ‘Until recently, however, no sponge body fossils had been identified or described from this fauna.’
    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    1. 1.1derogatory, humorous A person or thing that is outdated or resistant to change.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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Most of the other scholars were old fossils that seemed so fragile that the slightest breath of wind would keel them over.’
      conservative, traditionalist, conventionalist, diehard, conformist, bourgeois, museum piece, 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.
      • ‘Old words become linguistic fossils as new words replace them in response to events and developments in a rapidly changing world.’
      • ‘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.’


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.