In geology, petrifaction or petrification is the process by which organic material is converted into stone or a similar substance without "decaying". It is approximately synonymous with fossilization. Petrified wood is the most well known result of this process.

For a list of sites of major collections of petrified materials, see Petrified wood.


Petrifaction is also a common theme in folklore and mythology, and is associated with the legends of Medusa the Gorgon, the basilisk, and the cockatrice, among others. In fairy tales, characters who fail in a quest may be turned to stone until they are rescued by the successful hero, as in "The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body" or "The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird".

In Cornish folklore, petrifaction stories are used to explain the origin of prehistoric megalithic monuments such as stone circles and monoliths. For example, the name of the Merry Maidens stone circle, and the nearby Pipers monoliths, comes from an associated myth about a party of young women who danced on poles through Saturday evening and into Sunday morning. For their sins the nineteen maidens were turned to stone, as were the two pipers accompanying them. Several other Cornish stone circles have similar themes in their names (The Nine Maidens of Boskednan, the Tregeseal Dancing Stones), and there are variations such as The Hurlers on Bodmin Moor - turned to stone for playing the Cornish game of hurling on a Sunday [ [ Popular Romances of the West of England: Romances of the Rocks: The Dancing Stones, the Hurlers &c ] ] . Several isolated standing stones have names associating them with pipers or fiddlers.

Figuratively, the word can also refer to a state of paralysis resulting from fear.


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  • Petrifaction — Pet ri*fac tion, n. [See {Petrify}.] 1. The process of petrifying, or changing into stone; conversion of any organic matter (animal or vegetable) into stone, or a substance of stony hardness. [1913 Webster] 2. The state or condition of being… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • petrifaction — [pē΄trifi kā′shənpe΄trə fak′shən] n. [< PETRIFY] 1. a petrifying or being petrified 2. something petrified: Also petrification [pē΄trifi kā′shən] petrifactive adj …   English World dictionary

  • petrifaction — Fossilization, as in conversion into stone. [L. petra, rock + facio, to make] * * * pet·ri·fac·tion .pe trə fak shən n 1) the process of petrifying <calcification or petrifaction of tissue> 2) something petrified 3) the quality or state of… …   Medical dictionary

  • petrifaction — akmenėjimas statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Birių nuosėdų virtimas uoliena. atitikmenys: angl. lithification; petrifaction; petrification rus. литификация; окаменение ryšiai: sinonimas – litifikacija …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • petrifaction — petrify ► VERB (petrifies, petrified) 1) change (organic matter) into stone by encrusting or replacing its original substance with a mineral deposit. 2) paralyse with fear. 3) deprive of vitality. DERIVATIVES petrifaction noun petrification noun …   English terms dictionary

  • petrifaction — noun Date: 15th century 1. the process of petrifying 2. something petrified 3. the quality or state of being petrified …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • petrifaction — petrifactive, adj. /pe treuh fak sheuhn/, n. 1. the act or process of petrifying; the state of being petrified. 2. something petrified. Also, petrification /pe treuh fi kay sheuhn/. [1640 50; PETRI + faction < L faction (s. of factio) a making.… …   Universalium

  • petrifaction — noun the condition of being petrified See Also: petrification …   Wiktionary

  • petrifaction — (Roget s IV) n. Syn. fossilization, solidification, hardening, toughening, firmness, compactness, ossification, calcification …   English dictionary for students

  • petrifaction — pet·ri·fac·tion || ‚petrɪ fækʃn n. process of turning into stone; fossilization; shock, paralysis resulting from fear; fossil, something that has turned to stone …   English contemporary dictionary

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