pro·​gen·​i·​tor prō-ˈje-nə-tər How to pronounce progenitor (audio)
: an ancestor in the direct line : forefather
: a biologically ancestral form
: precursor, originator
progenitors of socialist ideasThe Times Literary Supplement (London)
progenitor cells

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 Fast forward to 2005, and Maserati, Pininfarina, and Motorola merged forces to build a 21st-century concept that channeled the inspired design of its 60s-era progenitor. Basem Wasef, Robb Report, 5 July 2024 The book features the Fletchers, a Jewish-American family whose progenitor fled Poland during the Holocaust, and who have since become devastatingly rich off a code-violating polystyrene factory. Luna Adler, Vogue, 3 July 2024 No one can accuse this film of not being true to the spirit of its progenitor, which again will be a big plus for nostalgists. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 July 2024 For the cover of the June 24, 2024, issue, the cartoonist Adrian Tomine portrays a young preteen trying to distance herself from her progenitors. Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker, 17 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for progenitor 

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

Word History


Middle English progenitour, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin prōgenitor "individual from whom a person or family is descended, ancestor," agentive derivative of prōgignere "to produce as offspring, bring into being, give rise to" (from prō- pro- entry 2 + gignere "to bring into being, beget, give birth to"), after genitor "father, parent, originator," going back to Indo-European *ǵenh1- "engender, beget" + *-tor/*-tōr, agent suffix, from which also Greek genétōr "father, begetter, ancestor," Sanskrit janitar-, janitá "father, progenitor" — more at kin entry 1

Note: Alternatively genitor has been explained as a new formation based on genitus, past participle of gignere. The older and still somewhat more attractive view sees genitus as the new formation, based on the perfect genuī or on genitor itself, after the connection with the original verbal adjective (g)nātus (going back to zero-grade *ǵn̥h1-to-) became weakened.

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near progenitor

Cite this Entry

“Progenitor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Medical Definition


pro·​gen·​i·​tor prō-ˈjen-ət-ər, prə- How to pronounce progenitor (audio)
: an ancestor of an individual in a direct line of descent along which some or all of the ancestral genes could theoretically have passed
: a biologically ancestral form

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