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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the Age of Fishes; from 405 to 345 million years ago, when fishes began to flourish and amphibians first appeared

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun and adjective Devonian were first applied to the geological formation of that name and the era in which it was formed in the 1830s. It comes from the county of Devon in southwest England.


The geological formation that lies between the Carboniferous and Silurian systems of rocks was named in the 1830s, during the first great era of exploration and analysis of the earth’s structure. The name Devonian simply means ‘of or relating to the English county of Devon’, where this formation was first identified. Many entries to our Open Dictionary are submitted by enthusiasts and experts in various subjects, and Devonian is one of these. The contributor, from Albania, also submitted entries for Permian, Pangaea and Panthalasa: the first another geological era, and the other two the name for the supercontinent that is thought to have existed on earth until about 175 million years ago and the ocean that surrounded it. There was a time when dictionaries such as Macmillan Dictionary had to ration the number of encyclopedic entries that were included due to space restrictions. That is no longer the case, and technical and specialized vocabulary is as welcome as any other kind.


Since the first human eye saw a leaf in Devonian sandstone and a puzzled finger reached to touch it, sadness has lain over the heart of man.
(Loren Eiseley)

Related words

Jurassic, Permian, Cretaceous, Pleistocene

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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