[kahr-buh-nif-er-uh s]Geology
  1. noting or pertaining to a period of the Paleozoic Era, including the Pennsylvanian and Mississippian periods as epochs, occurring from 345 million to 280 million years ago.
  2. (lowercase) producing carbon or coal.
  1. the Carboniferous Period or System.

Origin of Carboniferous

1790–1800; < Latin carbōn- (stem of carbō) coal + -i- + -ferous
Related formspost-Car·bon·if·er·ous, adjectivepre-Car·bon·if·er·ous, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for carboniferous

Historical Examples of carboniferous

British Dictionary definitions for carboniferous


  1. yielding coal or carbon


  1. of, denoting, or formed in the fifth period of the Palaeozoic era, between the Devonian and Permian periods, lasting for nearly 64 million years during which coal measures were formed
  1. the Carboniferous the Carboniferous period or rock system
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

Word Origin and History for carboniferous



1830 with reference the geological period, from a word formed in English in 1799 to mean "coal-bearing," from Latin carbo (genitive carbonis) "coal" (see carbon) + -ferous "producing, containing, bearing," from ferre "to bear" (see infer). The great coal beds of Europe were laid down during this period. As a stand-alone noun (short for Carboniferous Period) from 1940s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

carboniferous in Science


  1. The period of geologic time from about 360 to 286 million years ago. The term is used throughout the world, although this period of time has been separated into the Mississippian (lower Carboniferous) and Pennsylvanian (upper Carboniferous) in the United States. During this time, widespread swamps formed in which plant remains accumulated and later hardened into coal. See Chart at geologic time.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.