Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[at-uh-vis-tik] /ˌæt əˈvɪs tɪk/
of, relating to, or characterized by atavism; reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type.
Origin of atavistic
First recorded in 1870-75; atav(ism) + -istic
Related forms
atavistically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for atavistic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Deering was very human and fought against an atavistic shrinking from the dark and loneliness.

    Northwest! Harold Bindloss
  • It is only an atavistic phenomenon, the return to a former state.

    Criminal Man Gina Lombroso-Ferrero
  • We are an ignorant, atavistic people; and our priests are wondrous moral.

    Not Guilty Robert Blatchford
  • The criminal is an atavistic being, a relic of a vanished race.

    Criminal Man Gina Lombroso-Ferrero
  • In the strict sense of the word, however, I doubt very much whether we can legitimately accept the atavistic explanation.

    The Criminal Havelock Ellis
  • This is of great importance in view of the atavistic origin of crime.

    Criminal Man Gina Lombroso-Ferrero
  • The probability, in this case, is that the atavistic variety will find its way into a pie, instead of being kept as a pet.

British Dictionary definitions for atavistic


of or relating to reversion to a former or more primitive type
Derived Forms
atavistically, adverb
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 atavistic

"pertaining to atavism," 1847; see atavism + -ic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
atavistic in Science
Relating to an inherited trait that reappears in an individual after being absent from a strain of organism for several generations. Atavistic traits were formerly thought to be throwbacks to ancestral types but are now known to be due to the inheritance of a pair of recessive genes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for atavistic

Some English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for atavistic

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for atavistic