Definition of petrify in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpetrəˌfī/

verb (petrifies, petrifying, petrified)

[with object]
1Make (someone) so frightened that they are unable to move or think: his icy controlled quietness petrified her
More example sentences
  • You are petrified of letting people see how vulnerable you can be and have a very bad case of stage fright.
  • I am petrified of heights and last year did an abseil which I found really scary.
  • But I'm also petrified of joblessness, insecurity, and drastic changes happening all at once.
terrified, terror-stricken, horrified, scared/frightened out of one's wits, scared/frightened to death
terrify, horrify, frighten, scare, scare/frighten to death, scare/frighten the living daylights out of, scare/frighten the life out of, strike terror into, put the fear of God into;
paralyze, transfix
informal scare the pants off, scare the bejesus out of
2Change (organic matter) into a stony concretion by encrusting or replacing its original substance with a calcareous, siliceous, or other mineral deposit.
Example sentences
  • The chemical components used to artificially petrify wood can be found in natural settings around volcanoes and within sedimentary strata.
  • As the ham was petrified within ‘historic time’, it was excluded on the basis of the first of these definitions from being called a fossil.
  • The charcoal had kept the hull dry and the salt had petrified it.
ossified, fossilized, calcified


Late Middle English: from French pétrifier, from medieval Latin petrificare, from Latin petra 'rock', from Greek.

  • The original sense of petrify was ‘to convert into stone’, from the Latin and Greek root petra ‘rock’. The sense ‘to terrify, astonish’ dates from the mid 17th century. Petroleum is from the same source—it is found in rocks. The second part is Latin oleumolive oil’ ( see oil).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pet·ri·fy

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