Try Our Apps


What does the eggplant emoji really mean?


[at-uh-viz-uh m] /ˈæt əˌvɪz əm/
  1. the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some remote ancestor that have been absent in intervening generations.
  2. an individual embodying such a reversion.
reversion to an earlier type; throwback.
Origin of atavism
1825-35; < Latin atav(us) remote ancestor (at-, akin to atta familiar name for a grandfather + avus grandfather, forefather) + -ism
Related forms
atavist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for atavism
Historical Examples
  • I used the word 'atavism' to mean a reversion to the primitive.

    Measure for a Loner James Judson Harmon
  • Can I explain, can anyone explain, the mysterious vagaries of atavism?

    Uncanny Tales Various
  • Altogether a good deal of nonsense has been written about atavism.


    William J. Robinson
  • I would not omit to mention also the law of atavism, in this discussion of heredity.

  • For a short moment he hesitated but atavism and necessity were against him.

    Skippy Bedelle Owen Johnson
  • Some of them were mere lads, but one and all had features which suggested the atavism of crime.

    The American Egypt Channing Arnold
  • The word reversion, also, not to say atavism, may well be dropped.

    Parenthood and Race Culture Caleb Williams Saleeby
  • It must explain all the facts which constitute what is known as atavism.

    The Making of Species Douglas Dewar
  • This is that atavism which has been so frequently observed in criminals and so much discussed.

    The Criminal Havelock Ellis
  • This is not atavism, though it may be the outcome of atavism, or arrest of development.

    The Criminal Havelock Ellis
British Dictionary definitions for atavism


the recurrence in a plant or animal of certain primitive characteristics that were present in an ancestor but have not occurred in intermediate generations
reversion to a former or more primitive type
Derived Forms
atavist, noun
atavic (əˈtævɪk) adjective
Word Origin
C19: from French atavisme, from Latin atavus strictly: great-grandfather's grandfather, probably from atta daddy + avus grandfather
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for atavism

1833, from French atavisme, attested by 1820s, from Latin atavus "ancestor, forefather," from at- perhaps here meaning "beyond" + avus "grandfather," from PIE *awo- "adult male relative other than the father" (see uncle).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
atavism in Medicine

atavism at·a·vism (āt'ə-vĭz'əm)
The appearance of characteristics that are presumed to have been present in some remote ancestor; reversion to an earlier biological type.

at'a·vist n.
at'a·vis'tic adj.
at'a·vis'ti·cal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for atavism

Word Value for atavism

Scrabble Words With Friends