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1. The reappearance of a characteristic in an organism after several generations of absence.
2. An individual or a part that exhibits atavism. Also called throwback.
3. The return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence.

[French atavisme, from Latin atavus, ancestor : atta, father + avus, grandfather; see awo- in Indo-European roots.]

at′a·vist n.
at′a·vis′tic adj.
at′a·vis′ti·cal·ly adv.


of or relating to atavism
ˌataˈvistically adv


Reappearing after being absent from a strain of organism for several generations. Used of an inherited trait.

atavism noun
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adj.1.atavistic - characteristic of an atavist
regressive - opposing progress; returning to a former less advanced state


[ˌætəˈvɪstɪk] ADJatávico


[ˌætəˈvɪstɪk] (formal) adj [fear, sense, instinct, emotion] → atavique


References in classic literature ?
Hayward sought his acquaintance; but Philip had an unfortunate trait: from shyness or from some atavistic inheritance of the cave-dweller, he always disliked people on first acquaintance; and it was not till he became used to them that he got over his first impression.
But some strains of germplasm carry an excessive freightage of memories--are, to be scientific, more atavistic than other strains; and such a strain is mine.
It gave the explanation, gave sanity to the pranks of this atavistic brain of mine that, modern and normal, harked back to a past so remote as to be contemporaneous with the raw beginnings of mankind.
And all my austere nights of midnight oil, all the books I had read, all the wisdom I had gathered, went glimmering before the ape and tiger in me that crawled up from the abysm of my heredity, atavistic, competitive and brutal, lustful with strength and desire to outswine the swine.
By this time he was getting old, and philosophic, and tolerant, and spiritually atavistic.
Thus "the unconscious" becomes a sort of underground prisoner, living in a dungeon, breaking in at long intervals upon our daylight respectability with dark groans and maledictions and strange atavistic lusts.
Through the eyes of characters in the hacker underground the reader sees human civilization from outside of it for the first time," the statement continues, "in a space where laws and morals have given way to the atavistic struggle for power.
Civilisation taking a message from the primeval, from the atavistic.
Now that Marine Le Pen of France's National Front is close to real power, she is struggling to distance her racist, anti-semitic and anti-Islamic party from its deeply atavistic roots.
2015 * Curated by Andrea LISS011i ' Since the early 1970s, Joan Jonas has been producing complexly atavistic, lyrical installations, often using video light as a fifth element and animating force in her cosmologies.
Thus the generation of atavistic archaeal metabolic, immune and neuronal phenotype can contribute to schizophrenia.
But the atavistic theories concerning the human os penis in evolutionary terms were further supported by the aforementioned case described by Vermooten.