from The Century Dictionary.

  • Pertaining to or characterized by atavism; atavic.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective displaying characteristics of a previous cultural era or of a previous ancestral form; displaying atavism.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective biology of the recurrence of a trait reappearing after an absence of one or more generations due to a chance recombination of genes.
  • adjective of a throwback or exhibiting primitivism.
  • adjective relating to earlier, more primitive behavior that returns after an absence.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective characteristic of an atavist


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From atavism +‎ -istic, from French atavisme, from Latin atavus ("ancestor"), from at + avus ("grandfather").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word atavistic.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • This word makes me want to study my genealogy and see if I have any famous ancestors I'm emulating.

    June 13, 2007

  • Citation on berk.

    June 30, 2008

  • "With a faint atavistic sense of housewifeliness, I tucked a soft green pillow under his head."

    —Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross (NY: Bantam Dell, 2001), 761

    January 26, 2010

  • atavistic guilt; throwback guilt

    June 3, 2011

  • 'That tone of certainty persists, an atavistic trait that defies the evolution of its notional subject.' The Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson 2010.

    April 17, 2013

  • Defn. 2: Of or pertaining to a grandfather.

    December 17, 2017