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atavism

[at-uh-viz-uh m]
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noun
  1. Biology.
    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.
  2. reversion to an earlier type; throwback.
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Origin of atavism

1825–35; < Latin atav(us) remote ancestor (at-, akin to atta familiar name for a grandfather + avus grandfather, forefather) + -ism
Related formsat·a·vist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for atavist

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Environment cannot make a model citizen of the "born criminal," or atavist.

    Not Guilty

    Robert Blatchford

  • But, if the prisoner is an atavist it is his nature to be furious and cruel.

    Not Guilty

    Robert Blatchford

  • For it is not a fault, but a misfortune, to be born an atavist.

    Not Guilty

    Robert Blatchford

  • If the atavist is "wicked," the shark, and the wolf, and the adder are "wicked."

    Not Guilty

    Robert Blatchford

  • Say the prisoner is an atavist; a man bred back to the beasts.

    Not Guilty

    Robert Blatchford


British Dictionary definitions for atavist

atavism

noun
  1. the recurrence in a plant or animal of certain primitive characteristics that were present in an ancestor but have not occurred in intermediate generations
  2. reversion to a former or more primitive type
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Derived Formsatavist, nounatavic (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

Word Origin and History for atavist

atavism

n.

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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

atavist in Medicine

atavism

(ătə-vĭz′əm)
n.
  1. The appearance of characteristics that are presumed to have been present in some remote ancestor; reversion to an earlier biological type.
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Related formsata•vist n.at′a•vistic adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.