Definition of archaeopteryx in US English:



  • The oldest known fossil bird, of the late Jurassic period. It had feathers, wings, and hollow bones like a bird, but teeth, a bony tail, and legs like a small coelurosaur dinosaur.

    Archaeopteryx lithographica, subclass Archaeornithes

    • ‘An archaeopteryx, feathers and all, spreads its wings as you open one page; a lumbering ankylosaur rises from the folds of another, its spiny tail raised threateningly.’
    • ‘The first bird, archaeopteryx, is thought to have evolved about 147m years ago.’
    • ‘The findings could finally end a debate that has raged ever since the first archaeopteryx fossil was discovered in a German limestone quarry two years after Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species in 1859.’
    • ‘One of them in Britain might be archaeopteryx, the bird-like creature with teeth and other reptilian features.’
    • ‘One would expect birds older than archaeopteryx to be much more reptile-like, but they are much like modern birds.’


From archaeo- ‘ancient’ + Greek pterux ‘wing’.