[jen-uh-rey-shuh n]
See more synonyms for generation on
  1. the entire body of individuals born and living at about the same time: the postwar generation.
  2. the term of years, roughly 30 among human beings, accepted as the average period between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring.
  3. a group of individuals, most of whom are the same approximate age, having similar ideas, problems, attitudes, etc.Compare Beat Generation, Lost Generation.
  4. a group of individuals belonging to a specific category at the same time: Chaplin belonged to the generation of silent-screen stars.
  5. a single step in natural descent, as of human beings, animals, or plants.
  6. a form, type, class, etc., of objects existing at the same time and having many similarities or developed from a common model or ancestor (often used in combination): a new generation of anticancer drugs; a third-generation phone.
  7. the offspring of a certain parent or couple, considered as a step in natural descent.
  8. the act or process of generating; procreation.
  9. the state of being generated.
  10. production by natural or artificial processes; evolution, as of heat or sound.
  11. Biology.
    1. one complete life cycle.
    2. one of the alternate phases that complete a life cycle having more than one phase: the gametophyte generation.
  12. Mathematics. the production of a geometrical figure by the motion of another figure.
  13. Physics. one of the successive sets of nuclei produced in a chain reaction.
  14. (in duplicating processes, as photocopying, film, etc.) the distance in duplicating steps that a copy is from the original work.

Origin of generation

1250–1300; Middle English generacioun < Middle French < Latin generātiōn- (stem of generātiō). See generate, -ion
Related formsgen·er·a·tion·al, adjectivegen·er·a·tion·al·ly, adverbin·ter·gen·er·a·tion, nounpre·gen·er·a·tion, nounsub·gen·er·a·tion, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for generation


  1. the act or process of bringing into being; production or reproduction, esp of offspring
    1. a successive stage in natural descent of organisms: the time between when an organism comes into being and when it reproduces
    2. the individuals produced at each stage
  2. the normal or average time between two such generations of a species: about 35 years for humans
  3. a phase or form in the life cycle of a plant or animal characterized by a particular type of reproductionthe gametophyte generation
  4. all the people of approximately the same age, esp when considered as sharing certain attitudes, etc
  5. production of electricity, heat, etc
  6. physics a set of nuclei formed directly from a preceding set in a chain reaction
  7. (modifier, in combination)
    1. belonging to a generation specified as having been born in or as having parents, grandparents, etc, born in a given countrya third-generation American
    2. belonging to a specified stage of development in manufacture, usually implying improvementa second-generation computer
Derived Formsgenerational, adjective
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 generation

early 14c., "body of individuals born about the same period" (usually 30 years), from Old French generacion (12c.) and directly from Latin generationem (nominative generatio) "generating, generation," noun of action from past participle stem of generare "bring forth" (see genus). Meanings "act or process of procreation," "process of being formed," "offspring of the same parent" are late 14c.

Generation gap first recorded 1967; generation x is 1991, from Douglas Coupland book of that name; generation y attested by 1994. Related: Generational. Adjectival phrase first-generation, second-generation, etc. with reference to U.S. immigrants is from 1896.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

generation in Medicine


  1. A form or stage in the life cycle of an organism.
  2. All of the offspring that are at the same stage of descent from a common ancestor.
  3. The average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring.
  4. A group of individuals born and living about the same time.
  5. A group of generally contemporaneous individuals regarded as having common cultural or social characteristics and attitudes.
  6. The act or process of generating; origination, production, or procreation.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

generation in Science


    1. All of the offspring that are at the same stage of descent from a common ancestor.
    2. The average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring.
  1. A form or stage in the life cycle of an organism. See more at alternation of generations.
  2. The formation of a line or geometric figure by the movement of a point or line.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.