Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

atavism

play
noun at·a·vism \ˈa-tə-ˌvi-zəm\

Definition of atavism

  1. 1 a :  recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination b :  recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, outlook, approach, or activity <architectural atavism>

  2. 2 :  one that manifests atavism :  throwback

atavisticplay \ˌa-tə-ˈvis-tik\ adjective
atavisticallyplay \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb


Did You Know?

Atavism derives via French from Latin atavus, meaning "ancestor." Avus in Latin means "grandfather," and it's believed that the at is related to atta, a word for "daddy." Atavism is a term rooted in evolutionary study, referring to instances when an organism possesses traits closer to a more remote ancestor, rather than its own parents. That sense dates to the early part of the 19th century. The word's figurative sense is a more recent development. These days one might describe a building that looks like it's from an earlier era as an atavism, or (though some people might cringe at this) apply the word to activities like reading actual paper books in the age of electronics.

Origin of atavism

French atavisme, from Latin atavus ancestor, from at- (probably akin to atta daddy) + avus grandfather — more at uncle


First Known Use: 1833

Rhymes with atavism

absurdism, activism, Adventism, alarmism, albinism, alpinism, anarchism, aneurysm, anglicism, animism, aphorism, Arabism, archaism, asterism, atheism, atomism, atticism, Bahaism, barbarism, Benthamism, biblicism, blackguardism, bolshevism, boosterism, botulism, bourbonism, Brahmanism, Briticism, Caesarism, Calvinism, can-do-ism, careerism, Castroism, cataclysm, catechism, Catharism, centralism, chauvinism, chimerism, classicism, communism, concretism, conformism, cretinism, criticism, cronyism, cynicism, dadaism, dandyism, Darwinism, defeatism, de Gaullism, despotism, die-hardism, dimorphism, Docetism, do-goodism, dogmatism, Donatism, Don Juanism, druidism, dynamism, egoism, elitism, embolism, endemism, erethism, ergotism, erotism, escapism, Essenism, etatism, eunuchism, euphemism, euphuism, exorcism, expertism, extremism, fairyism, familism, fatalism, feminism, feudalism, fideism, fogyism, foreignism, formalism, futurism, gallicism, galvanism, gangsterism, genteelism, Germanism, giantism, gigantism, globalism, gnosticism, Gongorism, Gothicism, gourmandism, gradualism, grangerism, greenbackism, Hasidism, heathenism, Hebraism, hedonism, Hellenism, herbalism, hermetism, hermitism, heroism, highbrowism, Hinduism, hipsterism, hirsutism, hispanism, Hitlerism, hoodlumism, hoodooism, hucksterism, humanism, Hussitism, hybridism, hypnotism, Ibsenism, idealism, imagism, Irishism, Islamism, Jansenism, jim crowism, jingoism, journalism, John Bullism, Judaism, Junkerism, kabbalism, kaiserism, Krishnaism, Ku Kluxism, laconism, laicism, Lamaism, Lamarckism, landlordism, Latinism, legalism, Leninism, lobbyism, localism, locoism, Lollardism, luminism, lyricism, magnetism, mammonism, mannerism, Marcionism, masochism, mechanism, melanism, meliorism, Menshevism, Mendelism, mentalism, methodism, me-tooism, modernism, Mohockism, monachism, monadism, monarchism, mongolism, Montanism, moralism, Mormonism, morphinism, mullahism, mysticism, narcissism, nationalism, nativism, nepotism, neutralism, nihilism, NIMBYism, nomadism, occultism, onanism, optimism, oralism, Orangeism, organism, ostracism, pacifism, paganism, Pan-Slavism, pantheism, Parsiism, passivism, pauperism, phallicism, pianism, pietism, Platonism, pleinairism, pluralism, pointillism, populism, pragmatism, presentism, privatism, prosaism, Prussianism, puerilism, pugilism, Puseyism, Pyrrhonism, Quakerism, quietism, rabbinism, racialism, rationalism, realism, reformism, rheumatism, rigorism, robotism, Romanism, Rousseauism, rowdyism, royalism, satanism, saturnism, savagism, scapegoatism, schematism, scientism, sciolism, Scotticism, Semitism, Shakerism, Shintoism, skepticism, socialism, solecism, solipsism, Southernism, specialism, speciesism, Spartanism, Spinozism, spiritism, spoonerism, Stalinism, standpattism, stoicism, syllogism, symbolism, synchronism, syncretism, synergism, talmudism, tarantism, tectonism, tenebrism, terrorism, Teutonism, titanism, Titoism, toadyism, tokenism, Toryism, totalism, totemism, transvestism, traumatism, tribalism, tritheism, Trotskyism, ultraism, unionism, urbanism, utopism, Vaishnavism, vampirism, vandalism, vanguardism, Vedantism, veganism, verbalism, virilism, vitalism, vocalism, volcanism, voodooism, vorticism, voyeurism, vulcanism, vulgarism, Wahhabism, warlordism, welfarism, Wellerism, witticism, womanism, yahooism, Yankeeism, Yiddishism, Zionism, zombiism


Medical Dictionary

atavism

play
noun at·a·vism \ˈat-ə-ˌviz-əm\

Medical Definition of atavism

  1. 1:  recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination

  2. 2:  an individual or character manifesting atavism :  throwback

atavistic \ˌat-ə-ˈvis-tik\play adjective
atavistically \-ti-k(ə-)lē\play adverb



Learn More about atavism

  1. Medical Dictionary: Definition of "atavism"


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up atavism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

deserving imitation because of excellence

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

alt-5746713d76276

Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

disapprove soothe reduce perplex
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ