- 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.
But, if the prisoner is an atavist it is his nature to be furious and cruel.
For it is not a fault, but a misfortune, to be born an atavist.
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.