[ 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

at·a·vis·ti·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for atavistic

British Dictionary definitions for atavistic


/ (ˌætəˈvɪstɪk) /


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

Science definitions for atavistic


[ ăt′ə-vĭstĭk ]

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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.