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[ter-uh-dak-til] /ˌtɛr əˈdæk tɪl/
any of a number of genera of flying reptiles of the extinct order Pterosauria, from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, having a highly reduced tail and teeth and a birdlike beak.
1820-30; < New Latin Pterodactylus genus name, equivalent to Greek pteró(n) wing + -daktylos -dactylous
Related forms
pterodactylic, pterodactylous, adjective
pterodactylid, adjective, noun
pterodactyloid, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for pterodactyl
  • The evolutionary life of the nation-state will turn out to be far shorter than that of the pterodactyl.
  • The same could be said for bat wings, bird wings, and pterodactyl wings.
  • Its large form was unmistakable, reminiscent of a pterodactyl.
  • It's almost prehistoric, something you imagine a pterodactyl would make.
British Dictionary definitions for pterodactyl


any extinct flying reptile of the genus Pterodactylus and related genera, having membranous wings supported on an elongated fourth digit See also pterosaur
Word Origin
C19: from ptero- + Greek daktulos finger
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pterodactyl

extinct flying reptile, 1830, from French ptérodactyle (1821), from Modern Latin genus name Pterodactylus, from Greek pteron "wing" (see ptero-) + daktylos "finger" (see dactyl).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pterodactyl in Science

Any of various small, extinct flying reptiles (pterosaurs) of the genus Pterodactylus of the late Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. Pterodactyls had long, narrow jaws with sharp teeth, and a wingspan of 1 m (3.3 ft) or less.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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