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

Example Sentences

the progenitors of modern art wild cats that were the progenitors of the house cat
Recent Examples on the Web That puts Mexico far above the Netherlands (14 percent), Belgium (13 percent) and even Oktoberfest progenitor Germany (9 percent). Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, 28 Apr. 2023 Late-19th-century coal miners sported early versions of denim dungarees—the progenitors to jeans—noted Ms. Chapin, while white T-shirts rose to prominence when the U.S. Navy began issuing them to sailors around 1913. Todd Plummer,, 15 Apr. 2023 Their beliefs amalgamated principles developed by Kundalini yoga progenitor Yogi Bhajan; the astrological concept of the Age of Aquarius; the teachings of Manly P. Hall, founder of the Philosophical Research Society in Los Feliz; the freemasons and others. Erin Osmon, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2023 The release said the progenitor star that turned into the black hole would have been at least 20 times as massive as the sun and only lived a few million years. Julia Musto, Fox News, 4 Nov. 2022 Farewell, sweet iPod — namesake of the podcast, progenitor of the iPhone. Vulture, 13 May 2022 Jim Jarmusch is one of the most prolific and creative anomalies in the cinematic zeitgeist, often credited as a progenitor of the American independent cinema movement with his early masterworks Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Down by Law (1986). Nicholas Bell, SPIN, 5 May 2023 This is because to leave the black hole detected today, the progenitor star must have possessed around 20 times the mass of the sun. Robert Lea, Popular Mechanics, 6 Dec. 2022 The chimpanzee organoids matured quickly over about five days, during which the stem cells transitioned into neural progenitor cells before maturing into neurons. Zach Zorich, Discover Magazine, 3 Apr. 2022 See More

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 1 Jun. 2023.

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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