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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 ?
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.
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.
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.
By this time he was getting old, and philosophic, and tolerant, and spiritually atavistic.
The awaited festival is going to unfold itself at Ambernath's very own quaint and atavistic Shiv Mandir on this month from February 16th and will go on for three days till February 18th.
Five of the rioters in the Bremen incident were arrested, but when they appeared before Judge Louis Brodsky in September of 1935 something remarkable happened: Brodsky dismissed all charges, arguing that the swastika was "a black flag of piracy" that deserved to be destroyed, the emblem of "a revolt against civilization an atavistic throwback to pre-medieval, if not barbaric, social and political conditions.
The atavistic death penalty represents the best thinking of centuries ago.
The big difference is that they are operating on a global scale and they have a political agenda to impose their version of an atavistic Islam around the world.
3) Here, we report a unique muscle with cutaneous attachment which emphasises it to be embryological remnant of panniculus carnosus and seems to be atavistic in nature.
It is dangerous that one of the leading American candidates for the presidency can express such an atavistic view of the world.