a combining form meaning “old” or “ancient,” especially in reference to former geologic time periods, used in the formation of compound words: paleobotany.

Nearby words

  1. paleethnology,
  2. paleface,
  3. palembang,
  4. palencia,
  5. palenque,
  6. paleo-asiatic,
  7. paleo-indian,
  8. paleoanthropic,
  9. paleoanthropology,
  10. paleoarctic

Also pale-, especially British, palae-, palaeo-.

Origin of paleo-

< Greek palaio-, combining form of palaiós Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for paleo-


before a vowel pale-

combining form

variants (esp US) of palaeo-
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 paleo-


before vowels pale- word-forming element used in scientific combinations (mostly since c.1870) meaning "ancient, early, prehistoric, primitive," from Greek palaio-, comb. form of palaios "old, ancient," from palai "long ago, far back," related to palin "again, backwards," tele- "far off, at a distance," from PIE root *kwel- "to turn, move about," also "far" (in space and time); see cycle (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for paleo-



Ancient; prehistoric; old:paleopathology.
Early; primitive:paleokinetic.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for paleo-


A prefix that means “prehistoric” (as in paleontology) or “early or primitive” (as in Paleolithic).
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.