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[fo-sawr-ee-uh l, -sohr-] /fɒˈsɔr i əl, -ˈsoʊr-/
adjective, Zoology
digging or burrowing.
adapted for digging, as the hands, feet, and bone structure of moles, armadillos, and aardvarks.
Origin of fossorial
1830-40; < Late Latin fossōri(us) adapted to digging (equivalent to Latin fod(ere) to dig + tōrius -tory1, with dt > ss) + -al1
Related forms
subfossorial, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for fossorial
  • Thin, with dark blue sides and a narrow band along the spine, the so-called dwarf fossorial snake lacks fangs and venom.
  • The badger is a somewhat large mustelid that has been modified for a semi-fossorial life.
  • The adults are terrestrial and fossorial, except during the breeding season.
  • These salamanders are fossorial during the nonbreeding season and migrate to ponds, streams, or pools to breed.
  • The body is cylindrical, slender, and modified for a semi-fossorial life.
  • Compacted soils can also deter tunneling of fossorial animals.
  • It is an inappropriate technique to use in searching for fossorial or canopy dwelling species.
  • They form an important part of the ecosystem, be they large herbivores or fossorial, legless species.
British Dictionary definitions for fossorial


(of the forelimbs and skeleton of burrowing animals) adapted for digging
(of burrowing animals, such as the mole and armadillo) having limbs of this type
Word Origin
C19: from Medieval Latin fossōrius from Latin fossor digger, from fodere to dig
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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