1590s, "convert into stone or stony substance," from French pétrifier "to make or become stone" (16c.), from Latin petra "rock, crag" (see petrous) + -ficare, combining form of facere "to make, do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). Intransitive sense of "to become stone" is from 1640s. Metaphoric sense of "paralyze with fear or shock" is attested by 1771. Related: Petrified; petrifying.