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[pe-truh-fahy] /ˈpɛ trəˌfaɪ/
verb (used with object), petrified, petrifying.
to convert into stone or a stony substance.
to benumb or paralyze with astonishment, horror, or other strong emotion:
I was petrified with fear.
to make rigid or inert; harden; deaden:
The tragedy in his life petrified his emotions.
verb (used without object), petrified, petrifying.
to become petrified.
Origin of petrify
From the Middle French word petrifier, dating back to 1585-95. See petri-, -fy
Related forms
petrifiable, adjective
[pi-trif-i-kuh nt] /pɪˈtrɪf ɪ kənt/ (Show IPA),
petrifier, noun
half-petrified, adjective
semipetrified, adjective
unpetrified, adjective
unpetrifying, adjective
2. immobilize, dumbfound, daze. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for petrify
Historical Examples
  • I haven't seen a soul since one o'clock and I was beginning to petrify.

    Miss Pat at Artemis Lodge Pemberton Ginther
  • Policy seems to petrify their minds when they 've got on an eminence.

  • Then they begin to harden, presently they petrify, then business begins.

    Mark Twain's Speeches Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • The poet in dealing with his own time, must also see to it that language does not petrify on his hands.

    Instigations Ezra Pound
  • It rang down the corridor and seemed to petrify his grasp upon her.

    The Fifth Queen Ford Madox Ford
  • So, some rare waters in Derbyshire will petrify birds'-nests.

    Pierre; or The Ambiguities Herman Melville
  • What did she mean by that allusion to the cold people who petrify flesh to marble?

    Shirley Charlotte Bront
  • You petrify that man at the inn by the very way you speak to him, such condemnation!

    Sea and Sardinia D. H. Lawrence
  • Why, George, I can't say fine things to them; they freeze, they petrify me.

    She Stoops to Conquer Oliver Goldsmith
  • Nothing so sure to petrify the warmer sensibilities as neglect and wrong.

British Dictionary definitions for petrify


verb -fies, -fying, -fied
(transitive; often passive) to convert (organic material, esp plant material) into a fossilized form by impregnation with dissolved minerals so that the original appearance is preserved
to make or become dull, unresponsive, insensitive, etc; deaden
(transitive; often passive) to stun or daze with horror, fear, etc
Derived Forms
petrifier, noun
Word Origin
C16: from French pétrifier, ultimately from Greek petra stone, rock
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for petrify

1590s, from Middle French pétrifier "to make or become stone" (16c.), from Latin petra "rock, crag" (see petrous) + -ficare, from facere "to make, do" (see factitious). Metaphoric sense of "paralyze with fear or shock" first recorded 1771. Related: Petrified; petrifying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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