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- (transitive) To turn to stone: to harden organic matter by permeating with water and depositing dissolved minerals.
- 1799, Richard Kirwan, Geological Essays:
- a river that petrifies any sort of wood or leaves
- To produce rigidity akin to stone.
- To immobilize with fright.
- (intransitive) To become stone, or of a stony hardness, as organic matter by calcareous deposits.
- (intransitive, figurative) To become stony, callous, or obdurate.
- 1685, John Dryden, Threnodia Augustalis:
- Like Niobe we marble grow, / And petrify with grief.
- 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “The Result”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. […], volume I, London: Henry Colburn, […], →OCLC, page 233:
- Hopes, feelings, and passion, petrify one after another; the crust of experience soon hardens over the hidden past; and who, looking on the levelled and subdued exterior, could dream of the wreck and ravage that lies below?
- (transitive, figurative) To make callous or obdurate; to stupefy; to paralyze; to transform; as by petrification.
- 1874, George Eliot, letter to Mrs. Ponsonby:
- A hideous fatalism, which ought, logically, to petrify your volition.
- See also Thesaurus:frighten
to harden organic matter
to produce rigidity akin to stone
to immobilize with fright
to become stone, or of a stony hardness
to become stony, callous, or obdurate