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  1. the basic physical unit of heredity; a linear sequence of nucleotides along a segment of DNA that provides the coded instructions for synthesis of RNA, which, when translated into protein, leads to the expression of hereditary character.

Origin of gene

1911; < German Gen (1909), apparently abstracted from -gen -gen; introduced by Danish geneticist Wilhelm L. Johannsen (1857–1927)
Can be confusedgenes jeans


  1. a male given name, form of Eugene.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for genes

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • If you can change the genes in one cell, you can change them in another.

    Card Trick

    Walter Bupp AKA Randall Garrett

  • The aliens changed our genes so we would be able to use all of our brains.

    Earth Alert!

    Kris Neville

  • If you wish to change hereditary characteristics, you must change the genes.

    Earth Alert!

    Kris Neville

  • Mother's brains began to get hurt and kicked around when she was small, I think—but not by the genes.

  • They have to alter the genes—acquired characters would be of use only in a short-term project, and this is long-term.

    One Way

    Miriam Allen deFord

British Dictionary definitions for genes


  1. a unit of heredity composed of DNA occupying a fixed position on a chromosome (some viral genes are composed of RNA). A gene may determine a characteristic of an individual by specifying a polypeptide chain that forms a protein or part of a protein (structural gene); or encode an RNA molecule; or regulate the operation of other genes or repress such operationSee also operon

Word Origin

C20: from German Gen, shortened from Pangen; see pan-, -gen
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 genes



1911, from German Gen, coined 1905 by Danish scientist Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927), from Greek genea "generation, race" (see genus). De Vries had earlier called them pangenes. Gene pool is attested from 1950.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

genes in Medicine


  1. A hereditary unit that occupies a specific location on a chromosome, determines a particular characteristic in an organism by directing the formation of a specific protein, and is capable of replicating itself at each cell division.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

genes in Science


  1. A segment of DNA, occupying a specific place on a chromosome, that is the basic unit of heredity. Genes act by directing the production of RNA, which determines the synthesis of proteins that make up living matter and are the catalysts of all cellular processes. The proteins that are determined by genetic DNA result in specific physical traits, such as the shape of a plant leaf, the coloration of an animal's coat, or the texture of a person's hair. Different forms of genes, called alleles, determine how these traits are expressed in a given individual. Humans are thought to have 20,000 to 25,000 genes; bacteria have between 500 and 6,000. See also dominant recessive. See Note at Mendel.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

genes in Culture


A portion of a DNA molecule that serves as the basic unit of heredity. Genes control the characteristics that an offspring will have by transmitting information in the sequence of nucleotides on short sections of DNA.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.