sui generis

sui ge·​ner·​is | \ ˌsü-ˌī-ˈje-nə-rəs; ˌsü-ē-ˈje-, -ˈge- \

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

Throughout his 20-some years as a creator of sui generis theater, Mr. Maxwell has practiced an art of extreme purification. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: Richard Maxwell Considers Life After Life in ‘Paradiso’," 16 Jan. 2018 The sui generis magic of Riccardo Barthel is a mélange of made-to-measure resourcefulness, expert editing, and superb styling. Maria Shollenbarger, ELLE Decor, "An Italian Design Firm Transforms Discreet-but-Luxe Kitchens with a Timeless Florentine Aesthetic," 18 Oct. 2018 In fact, the job that Piper invented for herself was completely sui generis. Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York Times, "Adrian Piper’s Show at MoMA is the Largest Ever for a Living Artist. Why Hasn’t She Seen It?," 27 June 2018 Sorry to Bother You (July 6): Lakeith Stanfield stars in Bay Area rap legend and director Boots Riley’s delirious, sui generis magical-realist socio-political satire about an Oakland telemarketer who steps into a nefarious capitalist scheme. Vogue, "A List of Every Single Movie That You Need to Know About Coming Out in Summer 2018," 22 May 2018 Maybe Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher in major-league history, is sui generis for him that regard. Mike Sielski,, "Gabe Kapler isn't God, and the Phillies bullpen has few good options | Mike Sielski," 26 June 2018 Very quickly his job became doing whatever chore was in the offing—a sui generis job he's held for years. Julia Ioffe, GQ, "The Real Story of Donald Trump Jr.," 21 June 2018 As a high school prospect, Newman was regarded as a sui generis offensive talent, the type of player who can take over a game no matter the opponent. Matthew Giles,, "Ranking the top 50 prospects in the 2018 NBA draft," 19 June 2018 Gay guys may find themselves with the freedom to indulge the tastes that once would have gotten them called sissies, but no one is entirely sui generis in their style nor exempt from expectations of dating and the workplace. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "How Queer Is Queer Eye?," 15 June 2018

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

1694, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sui generis

Latin, of its own kind

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Statistics for sui generis

Last Updated

4 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for sui generis

The first known use of sui generis was in 1694

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More Definitions for sui generis

sui generis


English Language Learners Definition of sui generis

: 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- \

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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marked by shyness and lack of polish

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