from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A reversion to a former type or ancestral characteristic.
  • n. See atavism.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a reversion to an earlier stage of development
  • n. an organism that has characteristics of a more primitive form
  • n. atavism
  • n. a person similar to an ancestor, or something new similar to what already existed

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. the reappearance in an organism of characteristics of an earlier ancestral type; atavism.
  • n. an organisms having characteristics of an earlier ancestral type.
  • intransitive v. to revert to an ancestral type or character.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Anything which acts as a setback; specifically, a person who or thing which causes another to seem inferior by contrast.

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

  • adj. characteristic of an atavist
  • n. a reappearance of an earlier characteristic
  • n. an organism that has the characteristics of a more primitive type of that organism
  • v. throw back with a quick, light motion


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • Arguably 'reversion to a former type' and 'reappearance of an earlier characteristic' come gollydarn close.

    August 30, 2014

  • I see no mention of the newer sense of "throwback" as an adjective used in phrases such as "Throwback Thursdays" in which photos or videos of the past are re-broadcast to show what things looked like in the past, especially of currently known personalities. It is comparable in meaning to "retro" or "vintage" in its view of the past. and not intended to reintroduce something into the present (as with vintage clothing, or 'retro style') but to evoke a sense of nostalgia or humorous contemplation of times when things looked different from the present.

    August 30, 2014

  • As in "tubular throwback".

    November 1, 2007