Share this entry

Share this page


Line breaks: fos¦sil
Pronunciation: /ˈfɒs(ə)l
, -sɪl/

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
More example sentences
  • 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.
petrified remains, petrified impression, cast, impression, mould, remnant, relic;
Geology reliquiae
1.1 derogatory or humorous A person or thing that is outdated or resistant to change: he can be a cantankerous old fossil at times
More example sentences
  • 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.
1.2A word or phrase that has become obsolete except in set phrases or forms, e.g. hue in hue and cry.
Example sentences
  • 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'.

Definition of fossil in:

Share this entry

Share this page


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day jaunt
Pronunciation: jônt
a short excursion or journey for pleasure