verb (used with object), fos·sil·ized, fos·sil·iz·ing.

Geology. to convert into a fossil; replace organic with mineral substances in the remains of an organism.
to change as if into mere lifeless remains or traces of the past.
to make rigidly antiquated: Time has fossilized such methods.

verb (used without object), fos·sil·ized, fos·sil·iz·ing.

to become a fossil or like a fossil: The plant fossilized in comparatively recent geologic time.
Linguistics. (of a linguistic form, feature, rule, etc.) to become permanently established in the interlanguage of a second-language learner in a form that is deviant from the target-language norm and that continues to appear in performance regardless of further exposure to the target language.

Also especially British, fos·sil·ise.

Origin of fossilize

First recorded in 1785–95; fossil + -ize
Related formsfos·sil·iz·a·ble, adjectivefos·sil·i·za·tion, nounsem·i·fos·sil·ized, adjectiveun·fos·sil·ized, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for fossilization

Historical Examples of fossilization

  • Such hard parts or shells were commonly favorable for fossilization.


    William J. Miller

  • To evoking the instincts of bygone ages, which have not been preserved by fossilization?

    More Hunting Wasps

    J. Henri Fabre

  • Till men began to wonder at the stratification of rocks, and the fossilization of shells, there was no science of Geology.

    Westminster Sermons

    Charles Kingsley

  • A very common kind of fossilization is the preservation of only the hard parts of organisms.


    William J. Miller

  • Glimpses there were of the handy, affectionate, sympathizing woman, emerging from fossilization.


    Julian Hawthorne

British Dictionary definitions for fossilization




to convert or be converted into a fossil
to become or cause to become antiquated or inflexible
Derived Formsfossilizable or fossilisable, adjectivefossilization or fossilisation, noun
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 fossilization



1794, from fossil + -ize. Figurative use from 1856. Related: Fossilized; fossilizing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper