pro·​gen·​i·​tor | \ prō-ˈje-nə-tər How to pronounce progenitor (audio) , 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

Synonyms & Antonyms for progenitor



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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 So why are neural progenitor cells so sensitive to this extra chromosome when stem cells aren’t? Megan Molteni, STAT, 9 Jan. 2022 Read more about the Kernel helmets and their unusual progenitor at Bloomberg Businessweek. Peter Weber, The Week, 16 June 2021 Bachche’s more formalized Dabbawala system is the clear progenitor of modern delivery. Corey Mintz, Wired, 16 Nov. 2021 Its name is a fitting tribute to the progenitor of modern gastronomes, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, 29 Nov. 2021 Several of my previous columns have focused on the quasi-disappearance of China’s once-richest man, Jack Ma, the flamboyant progenitor of the Alibaba empire. George Calhoun, Forbes, 18 Oct. 2021 Didi, an Uber copycat that now matches its Western progenitor in scale, is emblematic of China’s Internet sector. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, 7 July 2021 Modi’s party and its progenitor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have cultivated a relationship with diaspora communities for years, building on the notion of Hindu pride. Washington Post, 3 Oct. 2021 It is widely believed that Pakistan is the progenitor of the Taliban, and while not controlling them, can certainly coordinate with them. Mike O'sullivan, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021

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 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.

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

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Last Updated

21 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Progenitor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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


pro·​gen·​i·​tor | \ prō-ˈjen-ət-ər, prə- How to pronounce progenitor (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on progenitor

Nglish: Translation of progenitor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of progenitor for Arabic Speakers


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