\ ˈjenz How to pronounce gens (audio) , ˈgen(t)s How to pronounce gens (audio) \
plural gentes\ ˈjen-​ˌtēz How to pronounce gentes (audio) , ˈgen-​ˌtās How to pronounce gentes (audio) \

Definition of gens

1 : a Roman clan embracing the families of the same stock in the male line with the members having a common name and worshipping a common ancestor
2 : clan especially : a patrilineal clan
3 : a distinguishable group of related organisms

First Known Use of gens

1846, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gens

borrowed from Latin gent-, gens literally, "group of the same ancestry, people, nation," going back to Indo-European *ǵenh1-ti- "offspring," derivative of *ǵenh1- "engender, be born" — more at kin entry 1

Note: The loss of the reflex of the laryngeal in gent-, gens, as opposed to genitor "father, creator" (see progenitor) presumably suggests that the word is a relatively recent formation, as observed already by A. Ernout and A. Meillet (Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine, 4. édition, 1979). Compare Latin nātiō "birth, race, nationality" (see nation), from *ǵn̥h1-ti-, an alternative zero-grade derivative with the suffix *-ti-.

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Last Updated

27 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gens.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2020.

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