epi·​gen·​e·​sis ˌe-pə-ˈje-nə-səs How to pronounce epigenesis (audio)
: development of a plant or animal from an egg or spore through a series of processes in which unorganized cell masses differentiate into organs and organ systems
also : the theory that plant and animal development proceeds in this way compare preformation sense 2
: change in the mineral character of a rock owing to outside influences

Examples of epigenesis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Disease researchers, Francis reports, have hopes that the effects of abnormal epigenesis may be reversed. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 20 June 2011 Some species, indeed, can pass this resilience on to their offspring by a process called intergenerational epigenesis. The Economist, 15 Mar. 2018

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

Word History


borrowed from New Latin (William Harvey), from epi- epi- + genesis genesis

First Known Use

1798, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of epigenesis was in 1798

Dictionary Entries Near epigenesis

Cite this Entry

“Epigenesis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epigenesis. Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Medical Definition


epi·​gen·​e·​sis ˌep-ə-ˈjen-ə-səs How to pronounce epigenesis (audio)
plural epigeneses -ˌsēz How to pronounce epigenesis (audio)
: development involving gradual diversification and differentiation of an initially undifferentiated entity (as a zygote or spore) compare preformation
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