[ jen-uh-rey-shuhn ]
See synonyms for: generationgenerations on

  1. the entire body of individuals born and living at about the same time: the postwar generation.

  2. the average span of years between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring, reckoned in accordance with various disciplines, as in human population studies, which typically cite a generational range as 20–35 years, and in the classification of Generations X, Y, and Z, which loosely frame periods of 15–20 years: Her photo layout shows the hairstyle trends among young men over the past four generations.

  1. a group of individuals, most of whom are the same approximate age, having similar ideas, problems, attitudes, etc.: Compare Beat Generation, Lost Generation.

  2. a group of individuals belonging to a specific category at the same time: Chaplin belonged to the generation of silent-screen stars.

  3. a single step in natural descent, as of human beings, animals, or plants.

  4. 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.

  5. the offspring of a certain parent or couple, considered as a step in natural descent.

  6. the act or process of generating or bringing into being; production, manufacture, or procreation.

  7. the state of being generated.

  8. production by natural or artificial processes; evolution, as of heat or sound.

  9. Biology.

    • one complete life cycle.

    • one of the alternate phases that complete a life cycle having more than one phase: the gametophyte generation.

  10. Mathematics. the production of a geometrical figure by the motion of another figure.

  11. Physics. one of the successive sets of nuclei produced in a chain reaction.

  12. (in duplicating processes, as photocopying, film, etc.) the distance in duplicating steps that a copy is from the original work.

Origin of generation

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English generacioun, from Middle French, from Latin generātiōn- (stem of generātiō ); see generate, -ion

word story For generation

Generation is from Anglo-French and Old French generacioun (with many spelling variants) “line of descent; body of individuals born and alive at about the same time,” senses that first occur in the Vulgate (the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century). The French noun comes from Latin generātiō (stem generation- ), which in classical Latin means only “act of procreating, procreation.”
Generātiō is a derivative of generāre “to beget, father, produce, generate.” Generāre in turn comes from genus (stem gener- ) “race, people, nation, class, kind,” from the Proto-Indo-European root gen-, gon-, gnē-, gnō- (with still other variants) “to beget, give birth.”
Further Latin examples include gēns (stem gent- ) “family, race, nation, people” and nātiō (from gnātiō ) “birth of a child, issue; race, nation.” Gentēs, the plural of gēns, translates Hebrew goyim “nations” in the Vulgate. Gēns forms the Latin adjective gentīlis “belonging to the same family, race, or nation.” English gentile comes from the Vulgate usage of gentīlis “any or all of the non-Jewish nations” and later “heathen, pagan.” Proto-Indo-European gen-, gon- yields Greek génos “race, descent, descendant, child” and génesis “origin, birth.”
The naming of a generation of people characterized collectively by shared ideas, experiences, etc., dates from the 1920s, specifically, the automobile generation and the Lost Generation.

Other words from generation

  • gen·er·a·tion·al, adjective
  • gen·er·a·tion·al·ly, adverb
  • in·ter·gen·er·a·tion, noun
  • pre·gen·er·a·tion, noun
  • sub·gen·er·a·tion, noun

Words Nearby generation Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use generation in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for generation


/ (ˌdʒɛnəˈreɪʃən) /

  1. the act or process of bringing into being; production or reproduction, esp of offspring

    • a successive stage in natural descent of organisms: the time between when an organism comes into being and when it reproduces

    • the individuals produced at each stage

  1. the normal or average time between two such generations of a species: about 35 years for humans

  2. a phase or form in the life cycle of a plant or animal characterized by a particular type of reproduction: the gametophyte generation

  3. all the people of approximately the same age, esp when considered as sharing certain attitudes, etc

  4. production of electricity, heat, etc

  5. physics a set of nuclei formed directly from a preceding set in a chain reaction

  6. (modifier, in combination)

    • belonging to a generation specified as having been born in or as having parents, grandparents, etc, born in a given country: a third-generation American

    • belonging to a specified stage of development in manufacture, usually implying improvement: a second-generation computer

Derived forms of generation

  • generational, 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

Scientific definitions for generation


[ jĕn′ə-rāshən ]

    • All of the offspring that are at the same stage of descent from a common ancestor.

    • 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.

  1. 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.