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From Middle French pétrifier, from Medieval Latin petrificāre, from Latin petra (rock), from Ancient Greek πέτρα (pétra, rock) + -ficāre, from facere (do, make), equivalent to petro- +‎ -ify.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpɛ.tɹəˌfaɪ/
    • (file)


petrified tree Kirstenbosch Cape Town

petrify (third-person singular simple present petrifies, present participle petrifying, simple past and past participle petrified)

  1. (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
  2. To produce rigidity akin to stone.
  3. To immobilize with fright.
  4. (intransitive) To become stone, or of a stony hardness, as organic matter by calcareous deposits.
  5. (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?
  6. (transitive, figurative) To make callous or obdurate; to stupefy; to paralyze; to transform; as by petrification.


Related terms[edit]