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

The gradual move away from 4chan as the progenitor of most of our memes is partly a natural cultural response to the evolving extremism that has taken over much of that site’s culture. Aja Romano, Vox, "Dank no more: internet memes are evolving from edgy to cute.," 3 Oct. 2018 The Las Vegas of today owes much of its glitzy reputation to Ocean's 11 — the cinematic progenitor to the all-female Ocean's 8, out June 8. Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, "Hollywood Flashback: How Sinatra and the Men of 'Ocean's 11' Made Vegas "Pop" in 1960," 31 May 2018 Not long ago, these progenitors of virtually all modern musical theater were widely considered dull, stodgy middlebrows. New York Times, "11 New Books We Recommend This Week," 10 May 2018 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

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

17 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for progenitor

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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Comments on progenitor

What made you want to look up progenitor? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

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