- Date: 15th century
- 1 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>
Fertility is the natural capability of giving life. As a measure, "fertility rate" is the number of children born per couple, person or population. Fertility differs from fecundity, which is defined as the potential for reproduction (influenced by gamete production, fertilisation and carrying a pregnancy to term). Infertility is a deficient fertility.
In demographic contexts, fertility refers to the actual production of offspring, rather than the physical capability to produce which is termed fecundity. While fertility can be measured, fecundity cannot be. Demographers measure the fertility rate in a variety of ways, which can be broadly broken into "period" measures and "cohort" measures. "Period" measures refer to a cross-section of the population in one year. "Cohort" data on the other hand, follows the same people over a period of decades. Both period and cohort measures are widely used.