pro·gen·i·tor | \ prō-ˈje-nə-tər , prə- \

Definition of progenitor 

1a : an ancestor in the direct line : forefather

b : a biologically ancestral form

2 : precursor, originator progenitors of socialist ideasThe Times Literary Supplement (London) progenitor cells

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Synonyms & Antonyms for progenitor


ancestor, father, forebear (also forbear), forebearer, forefather, grandfather, primogenitor


descendant (also descendent)

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Examples of progenitor in a Sentence

the progenitors of modern art wild cats that were the progenitors of the house cat

Recent Examples on the Web

Get in with grandmaThe nonna has long been the progenitor of Italian food culture—the expert on ingredients, the developer of recipes, the protector of food's place at the center of life in Italy. Matt Goulding, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Eat Like an Italian," 13 June 2018 These contemporary memoirists find progenitors in the fiction of earlier writers: Charlotte Brontë, Anaïs Nin, Clarice Lispector, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Alexandra Kleeman, Vanities, "This Novel Provides an Empowering, Grotesque Alternative to Leaning In," 2 July 2018 Those waves, now reanalyzed in a new paper by the LIGO–VIRGO team, provide some of the best hints yet about the nature of the merger’s progenitors—and what neutron star stuff actually is. Joshua Sokol, Scientific American, "Gravitational Waves Reveal the Hearts of Neutron Stars," 5 June 2018 Crossfire’s progenitors thus ignored an obvious question: If Russia promised unspecified dirt on Mrs. Clinton but never delivered it, how would that amount to collusion with the Trump campaign? David B. Rivkin Jr. And Elizabeth Price Foley, WSJ, "Mueller’s Fruit of the Poisonous Tree," 22 June 2018 Yes, that’s a long time ago, but famed critic Lester Bangs called the Troggs the progenitors of punk rock and icons from Iggy Pop to the Ramones claim to be influenced by them. Randy Blaser,, "What are the classics every rock band simply must be able to play?," 21 June 2018 So this is the progenitor of every phone out there. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Talkin’ Treble: How Android engineers are winning the war on fragmentation," 8 June 2018 The Globe's ballroom was one of the places where Buddy Bolden, sometimes credited as the progenitor of jazz, had frequently appeared before his institutionalization in 1907. Doug Maccash,, "David Byrne cancels New Orleans show in Oct. Simple Minds due in Nov.," 4 June 2018 Kanye in some ways is the progenitor of what’s going on in our culture. Samuel Hine, GQ, "How “Come Tees” Went From Kanye Co-Sign to Fashion Cult Craze," 30 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'progenitor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of progenitor

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for progenitor

Middle English, from Anglo-French progenitour, from Latin progenitor, from progignere to beget, from pro- forth + gignere to beget — more at kin

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Last Updated

28 Jul 2018

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The first known use of progenitor was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of progenitor

: someone who first thinks of or does something : a person who begins something

: something that is a model for something else : something that begins the development of something else

biology : a person or animal in the past that is related to a person or animal living now


pro·gen·i·tor | \ prō-ˈjen-ət-ər, prə- \

Medical Definition of progenitor 

1 : an ancestor of an individual in a direct line of descent along which some or all of the ancestral genes could theoretically have passed

2 : a biologically ancestral form

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