a. Capable of initiating, sustaining, or supporting reproduction.
b. Capable of growing and developing; able to mature: a fertile egg.
2. Botany Bearing functional reproductive structures such as seeds or fruit or material such as spores or pollen.
3. Bearing or producing crops or vegetation abundantly; fruitful.
4. Rich in material needed to sustain plant growth: fertile soil.
5. Highly or continuously productive; prolific: a fertile imagination; a fertile source of new ideas.
6. Physics Capable of producing fissionable material: fertile thorium 232.
[Middle English fertil, from Old French fertile, from Latin fertilis, from ferre, to bear; see bher-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: fertile, fecund, fruitful, productive, prolific
These adjectives mean marked by great productivity: a fertile imagination; a fecund theory; fruitful efforts; a productive period; a prolific career.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.