sui generis

sui ge·​ner·​is | \ ˌsü-ˌī-ˈje-nə-rəs How to pronounce sui generis (audio) ; ˌsü-ē-ˈje-, -ˈge- How to pronounce sui generis (audio) \

Definition of sui generis

: constituting a class alone : unique, peculiar

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Did You Know?

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 Like many Harper’s readers of my generation, I was first brought to the magazine by David Foster Wallace’s sui generis reporting from cruise ships and state fairs. Christopher Beha, Harpers Magazine, "A Novel Approach," 5 Jan. 2021 Transit system funding mechanisms are sui generis, but the pandemic has taken a razor to lots of them. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "Mass Transit Is in Jeopardy—and So Are Cities," 14 Dec. 2020 On the corporate scene, Karp is a sui generis figure, a fact vividly on display that autumn afternoon in the Luxembourg Gardens. Michael Steinberger, New York Times, "Does Palantir See Too Much?," 21 Oct. 2020 Close to miraculous is her adoption as a near-adolescent by Alma Wheatley, a character as sui generis as Beth and one played with tragic dreaminess by Marielle Heller. John Anderson, WSJ, "‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Review: A Winning Chess Thriller," 20 Oct. 2020 To read Anna Karenina this way requires not seeing Tolstoy as simply a sui generis artist who stumbled around his estate collecting anecdotes. Jennifer Wilson, The New Republic, "The Everyday Inspiration for Anna Karenina," 19 Aug. 2020 Below is a reading list of articles published in the week-and-a-half since Bryant’s death that address both his sui generis athletic skillset, but also how to talk about a celebrity whose death is more than several paragraphs of any obituary: 1. Matt Giles, Longreads, "“The Ugliness of Greatness”: A Kobe Bryant Reading List," 10 Aug. 2020 But as in so many other ways, Trump is sui generis. Adam Rogers, Wired, "No, You Don't Need to See President Trump's Medical Records," 19 June 2020 The greater attraction here, though, is Busby Berkeley, the dance director and creator of sui generis spectacles. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, "Escape With Me Into the Trippy World of 1930s Musicals," 22 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sui generis.' 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 sui generis

1615, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sui generis

Latin, of its own kind

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The first known use of sui generis was in 1615

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sui generis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for sui generis

sui generis


English Language Learners Definition of sui generis

formal : in a class or group of its own : not like anything else

sui generis

sui ge·​ner·​is | \ ˈsü-ˌī-ˈje-nə-rəs, ˈsü-ē- How to pronounce sui generis (audio) \

Legal Definition of 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

History and Etymology for sui generis

Latin, of its own kind

More from Merriam-Webster on sui generis

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sui generis

Nglish: Translation of sui generis for Spanish Speakers

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