- the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some remote ancestor that have been absent in intervening generations.
- 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for atavist
This article is excerpted from American Hippopotamus, a recent single from The Atavist.Lake Bacon: The Story of The Man Who Wanted Us to Eat Mississippi Hippos
August 10, 2014
Environment cannot make a model citizen of the "born criminal," or atavist.
For it is not a fault, but a misfortune, to be born an atavist.
But, if the prisoner is an atavist it is his nature to be furious and cruel.
If the atavist is "wicked," the shark, and the wolf, and the adder are "wicked."
Say the prisoner is an atavist; a man bred back to the beasts.
- 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
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
Word Origin and History for atavist
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
- The appearance of characteristics that are presumed to have been present in some remote ancestor; reversion to an earlier biological type.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.