[kahr-buh-nif-er-uhs] Geology.
noting or pertaining to a period of the Paleozoic Era, including the Pennsylvanian and Mississippian periods as epochs, occurring from 345 million to 280 million years ago. See table under geologic time.
(lowercase) producing carbon or coal.
the Carboniferous Period or System.

1790–1800; < Latin carbōn- (stem of carbō) coal + -i- + -ferous

post-Carboniferous, adjective
pre-Carboniferous, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
carboniferous (ˌkɑːbəˈnɪfərəs)
yielding coal or carbon

Carboniferous (ˌkɑːbəˈnɪfərəs)
1.  of, denoting, or formed in the fifth period of the Palaeozoic era, between the Devonian and Permian periods, lasting for nearly 64 million years during which coal measures were formed
2.  the Carboniferous the Carboniferous period or rock system

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

the geological period (1830) is from a word formed in English 1799 from L. carbo (gen. carbonis) "coal" (see carbon) + -ferous "producing, containing." The great coal beds of Europe were laid down during this period.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
Carboniferous   (kär'bə-nĭf'ər-əs)  Pronunciation Key 
The period of geologic time from about 360 to 286 million years ago. The term is used throughout the world, although this period of time has been separated into the Mississippian (lower Carboniferous) and Pennsylvanian (upper Carboniferous) in the United States. During this time, widespread swamps formed in which plant remains accumulated and later hardened into coal. See Chart at geologic time.
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