If a person has blue eyes like her great great grandmother but her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother have brown eyes, then having blue eyes is an example of an atavism.
- appearance in an individual of some characteristic found in a remote ancestor but not in nearer ancestors
- such a characteristic
- an individual with such a characteristicalso at′a·vist
Origin of atavismFrench atavisme from Classical Latin atavus, father of a great-grandfather, ancestor from at-, beyond + avus, grandfather from Indo-European an unverified form ati, beyond + an unverified form awos, maternal grandfather
- The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence.
- An individual or a part that exhibits atavism. Also called throwback .
- The return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence.
Origin of atavismFrench atavisme from Latin atavus ancestor atta father avus grandfather ; see awo- in Indo-European roots.
Can be used both neutrally, to refer to past or ancestral characteristics, or pejoratively, referring specifically to past primitive characteristics.
A rather formal term; in popular speech the circumlocution skip a generation is often used for traits that occur after a generation of absence.
From French atavisme.