au·​toch·​tho·​nous ȯ-ˈtäk-thə-nəs How to pronounce autochthonous (audio)
: indigenous, native
an autochthonous people
autochthonous plants
: formed or originating in the place where found
autochthonous rock
an autochthonous infection
autochthonously adverb

Did you know?

Ancient Athenians considered their ancestors the primordial inhabitants of their land, as if sprung from the very soil of the region they inhabited. Their word for any true-born Athenian, "autochthōn," itself springs from auto-, meaning "self," and chthōn, meaning "earth." Nowadays, the English adjective "autochthonous" is often used in somewhat meaty scientific or anthropological writing (as in "several autochthonous cases of fever broke out in the region"), but it was a "bready" context in which it made its debut. Observed English literary critic William Taylor in 1805: "The English have this great predilection for autochthonous bread and butter" (rather than French bread, one might safely presume).

Examples of autochthonous in a Sentence

an illegally introduced Asian fish that has virtually wiped out the lake's autochthonous species
Recent Examples on the Web In contrast, Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) and Indian Jews (Bene Israel and Cochini) cluster with neighbouring autochthonous populations in Ethiopia and western India, respectively, despite a clear paternal link between the Bene Israel and the Levant. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 10 June 2010 Alternatively, maybe the idea of coffee wasn't really autochthonous. Neuroskeptic, Discover Magazine, 22 Nov. 2013 China, that there lies, beneath the layers of Western influence, an autochthonous Chinese nation-state gloriously waiting to emerge. Chang Che, The New Republic, 27 Oct. 2022 Both The Dig and Ammonite fetishize British-ness in ways that make Mary Anning and Basil Brown seem less like serious researchers and more like Braveheart-style symbols of misunderstood autochthonous glory. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, 27 Jan. 2021 Far from being autochthonous, folk music is often influenced by the music of cities and courts, the seeds spread by travelers, merchants, migrants, itinerant players, refugees. Evan Eisenberg, WSJ, 24 May 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'autochthonous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


autochthon + -ous

First Known Use

1803, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of autochthonous was in 1803


Dictionary Entries Near autochthonous

Cite this Entry

“Autochthonous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition


au·​toch·​tho·​nous (ˈ)ȯ-ˈtäk-thə-nəs How to pronounce autochthonous (audio)
: indigenous or endemic to a region
autochthonous malaria
: contracted in the area where reported
autochthonous cases of malaria in the United States
: originated in that part of the body where found
used chiefly of pathological conditions
autochthonously adverb
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