Definition of autochthonous
- autochthonous rock
- an autochthonous infection
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an illegally introduced Asian fish that has virtually wiped out the lake's autochthonous species
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).
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