Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, from Latin fertilis, from ferre to carry, bear — more at bear
Date: 15th century
a. producing or bearing fruit in great quantities ; productive
b. characterized by great resourcefulness of thought or imagination ; inventive <a fertile mind> c. obsolete plentiful 2. a. (1) capable of sustaining abundant plant growth <fertile soil> (2) affording abundant possibilities for growth or development <damp bathrooms are fertile ground for fungi —Consumer Reports> <a fertile area for research> b. capable of growing or developing <a fertile egg> c. (1) capable of producing fruit (2) of an anther containing pollen (3) developing spores or spore-bearing organs d. capable of breeding or reproducing 3. capable of being converted into fissionable material <fertile uranium 238> • fertilely adverb • fertileness noun Synonyms: fertile, fecund, fruitful, prolific mean producing or capable of producing offspring or fruit. fertile implies the power to reproduce in kind or to assist in reproduction and growth <fertile soil>; applied figuratively, it suggests readiness of invention and development <a fertile imagination>. fecund emphasizes abundance or rapidity in bearing fruit or offspring <a fecund herd>. fruitful adds to fertile and fecund the implication of desirable or useful results <fruitful research>. prolific stresses rapidity of spreading or multiplying by or as if by natural reproduction <a prolific writer>.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.