sui generis


sui ge·​ner·​is ˌsü-ˌī-ˈje-nə-rəs How to pronounce sui generis (audio) ˌsü-ē-ˈje- How to pronounce sui generis (audio)
: constituting a class alone : unique, peculiar

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English contains many terms that ultimately trace back to the Latin forms gener- or "genus" (which are variously translated as "birth," "race," "kind," and "class"). Offspring of those roots include "general," "generate," "generous," "generic," "degenerate," and "gender." But "sui generis" is truly a one-of-a-kind "gener-" descendant that English speakers have used for singular things since the late 1600s. Its earliest uses were in scientific contexts, where it identified substances, principles, diseases, and even rocks that were unique or that seemed to be the only representative of their class or group. By the early 1900s, however, "sui generis" had expanded beyond solely scientific contexts, and it is now used more generally for anything that stands alone.

Examples of sui generis in a Sentence

among history's greats Leonardo da Vinci is often considered sui generis—a man of such stupendous genius that the world may never see his like again
Recent Examples on the Web These films are anarchic, sui generis novelties with a unique vision and a will to push technological boundaries. Calum Marsh, Vulture, 26 Sep. 2023 Given the disastrous results of his gambit in Ukraine, as well as his sui generis nature, many confidently predict that whoever follows him will inevitably exhibit less rabid nationalism. Jade McGlynn and Kirill Shamiev, Foreign Affairs, 17 Aug. 2023 Elling’s singing and hipster patois playfulness between songs and Hunter’s sui generis guitar-playing (which supplanted any need for a bassist) held everything together. Bill Beuttler,, 6 Aug. 2023 It was sui generis in both its execution and, arguably, its reception. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 27 July 2023 Such was my first in-the-flesh encounter with Jackson, who died Thursday at the age of 87 and who had seared herself into my teenage consciousness decades earlier as an uncompromisingly modern, sui generis movie star. Ben Brantley, New York Times, 15 June 2023 That’s a lot of short fiction, but Lafferty’s sui generis blend of the surreal and the deadpan funny can be addictive. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 1 June 2023 Perhaps she’s best understood as a precursor to other outliers in the American songbook, such as Cordell Jackson, Daniel Johnston, Hasil Adkins, or Karen Dalton—fellow sui generis musicians who emerged from the roots and funk of their regional culture to create songs of inimitable vigor. Jeremy Lybarger, The New Republic, 24 Apr. 2023 These series are so imbued with the original filmmaker’s sui generis personality that making one without that is ultimately a futile enterprise. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 21 Apr. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin, of its own kind

First Known Use

1615, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sui generis was in 1615


Dictionary Entries Near sui generis

Cite this Entry

“Sui generis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Legal Definition

sui generis

: constituting a class alone : unique or particular to itself
the lawyer's…ad that makes no distinction among various legal and factual nuances in each sui generis case has the potential to misleadNational Law Journal

Latin, of its own kind

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