[ lee-kee ]
/ ˈli ki /
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Lou·is Sey·mour Baz·ett [loo-is see-mawr baz-it], /ˈlu ɪs ˈsi mɔr ˈbæz ɪt/, 1903–72, British archaeologist and anthropologist.
Mary (Douglas), 1913–96, British archaeologist (wife of Louis Leakey).
Richard (Erskine Frere) [rich-erd ur-skin freer], /ˈrɪtʃ ərd ˈɜr skɪn ˈfrɪər/, 1944–2022, Kenyan paleontologist and animal-rights activist (son of Louis and Mary Leakey).
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How to use Leakey in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Leakey

/ (ˈliːkɪ) /

Louis Seymour Bazett (ˈbæzɪt). 1903–72, British anthropologist and archaeologist, settled in Kenya. He discovered fossil remains of manlike apes in E Africa
his son Richard . born 1944, Kenyan anthropologist, who discovered the remains of primitive man over 2 million years old in E Africa
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

Scientific definitions for Leakey

[ lēkē ]

Family of British scientists. Louis S(eymour) B(azett) (1903-1972) is known for fossil discoveries made in close collaboration with his wife Mary (1913-1996) of early humans. In 1959, while working in Tanzania, Africa, Mary Leakey uncovered skull and teeth fragments of a species the Leakeys named Zinjanthropus, since renamed Australopithecus boisei. The next year the Leakeys discovered remains of a larger-brained species, Homo habilis. Their discoveries provided powerful evidence that human ancestors were of greater age than was previously thought, and that they had evolved in Africa rather than in Asia. Their son Richard (born 1944) and his wife Meave (born 1942) have continued the family's research and discoveries. In 2001 Meave Leakey discovered a skull belonging to an entirely new genus, called Kenyanthropus platyops and believed to be 3.5 million years old.


The discoveries made by the famous Leakey family of anthropologists and paleontologists are nowadays so familiar (at least in their general import) that we can easily forget how much they changed our views of hominid evolution. Before Louis and his wife Mary made their first major discoveries, it was widely thought that humans had originated in Asia. This was because our immediate ancestor, Homo erectus, had been discovered in East and Southeast Asia, and for a long time its best and oldest fossil remains came from there (such as the famous “Java Man” and “Peking Man”). The Leakeys' discoveries of an earlier hominid species, Homo habilis, showed not only that hominid evolution was a good deal earlier than previously thought, but also that it had been centered in East Africa. Interestingly, Louis Leakey had (at least indirectly) almost as much influence on the study of modern primates as he did on the study of ancient ones: he persuaded Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey to live among gorillas and chimpanzees to study their behavior over long periods of time.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for Leakey


A family of anthropologists whose work at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and elsewhere revealed that humans probably first evolved in Africa. Louis Leakey and his wife, Mary, discovered fossils of human ancestors dating back over 3.75 million years. Their son, Richard Leakey, continued to make discoveries in Kenya and Tanzania.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.