AskDefine | Define tertiary

Dictionary Definition

tertiary adj : coming next after the second and just before the fourth in position [syn: third, 3rd] n : from 63 million to 2 million years ago [syn: Tertiary period]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Tertiary




  1. Of third rank or order; subsequent.


third rank or order

See also


  1. A tertiary feather.
  2. A member of a Roman Catholic third order - the Franciscans, Dominicans and Carmelites among others.


a tertiary feather
a member of a Roman Catholic third order

Extensive Definition

For other meanings of the word "tertiary", see .
include timeline Cenozoic The Tertiary geological time interval covers roughly the time span between the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs and beginning of the most recent Ice Age, approximately 65 million to 1.8 million years ago.
At the beginning of the period, mammals replaced reptiles as the dominant vertebrates. Each epoch of the Tertiary was marked by striking developments in mammalian life. The earliest recognizable hominoid relatives of humans, Proconsul and Australopithecus, also. Modern types of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates were either already numerous at the beginning of the period or appeared early in its history. Modern families of flowering plants evolved. Marine invertebrates and non-mammal marine vertebrates experienced only modest evolution.
Tectonic activity continued as Gondwana finally split completely apart, and India collided with the Eurasian plate. South America was connected to North America toward the end of the Tertiary. Antarctica — which was already separate — drifted to its current position over the South Pole. Widespread volcanic activity was prevalent. Climates during the Tertiary slowly cooled, starting off in the Paleocene with tropical-to-moderate worldwide temperatures and ending up with extensive glaciations at the end of the period.

Historical use of the term

The term Tertiary was first used by Giovanni Arduino in 1759. He classified geologic time into primitive (or primary), secondary, and tertiary periods based on observations of geology in northern Italy. Later a fourth period, the Quaternary, was applied. In 1828, Charles Lyell incorporated a Tertiary period into his own, far more detailed system of classification. He subdivided the Tertiary period into four epochs according to the percentage of fossil mollusks resembling modern species found in those strata. He used Greek names: Eocene, Miocene, Older Pliocene and Newer Pliocene. Although these divisions seemed adequate for the region to which the designations were originally applied (parts of the Alps and plains of Italy), when the same system was later extended to other parts of Europe and to America it proved to be inapplicable. Therefore, later the use of mollusks was abandoned from the definition and the epochs were renamed and redefined. With current terminology, what was called the Tertiary began at the start of the Paleocene and lasted through the end of the Pliocene.


See: Zachos 2001


tertiary in Catalan: Terciari
tertiary in Czech: Třetihory
tertiary in Danish: Tertiær
tertiary in German: Tertiär (Geologie)
tertiary in Spanish: Período terciario
tertiary in Esperanto: Terciaro
tertiary in French: Tertiaire (géologie)
tertiary in Croatian: Tercijar
tertiary in Icelandic: Tertíertímabilið
tertiary in Hebrew: שלישון
tertiary in Georgian: მესამეული სისტემა
tertiary in Hungarian: Harmadkor
tertiary in Dutch: Tertiair
tertiary in Japanese: 第三紀
tertiary in Norwegian: Tertiær
tertiary in Norwegian Nynorsk: Tertiærtida
tertiary in Polish: Trzeciorzęd
tertiary in Portuguese: Terciário
tertiary in Romanian: Terţiar
tertiary in Russian: Третичный период
tertiary in Slovak: Terciér
tertiary in Slovenian: Terciar
tertiary in Serbo-Croatian: Tercijar
tertiary in Finnish: Tertiäärikausi
tertiary in Swedish: Tertiär
tertiary in Vietnamese: Phân đại Đệ Tam

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Maxwell triangle, Munsell scale, chromatic circle, chromatic spectrum, chromaticity diagram, color circle, color cycle, color index, color mixture curve, color solid, color spectrum, color system, color triangle, complementary color, covert, demitint, feather, feathers, full color, fundamental colors, hackle, half tint, halftone, hue cycle, mail, metamer, monochrome, plumage, primary, primary color, pure color, secondary, secondary color, solar spectrum, spectral color, spectrum, spectrum color, speculum, tertiary color, third
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