of, relating to, or characterized by atavism; reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type.

Nearby words

  1. ataturk, kemal,
  2. atatürk,
  3. atatürk, kemal,
  4. atavic,
  5. atavism,
  6. ataxia,
  7. ataxia telangiectasia,
  8. ataxiaphasia,
  9. ataxic,
  10. ataxic abasia

Origin of atavistic

First recorded in 1870–75; atav(ism) + -istic

Related formsat·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



of or relating to reversion to a former or more primitive type
Derived Formsatavistically, 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

Word Origin and History for atavistic



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for atavistic



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.