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1861, in reference to a type of extinct hominid, from German Neanderthal "Neander Valley," name of a gorge near Düsseldorf where humanoid fossils were identified in 1856. The place name is from the Graecized form of Joachim Neumann (literally "new man," Greek *neo-ander), 1650-1680, German pastor, poet and hymn-writer, who made this a favorite spot in the 1670s. Adopting a classical form of one's surname was a common practice among educated Germans in this era. As a noun, by 1915; as a type f a big, brutish, stupid person from 1926.
|Neanderthal (nē-ān'dər-thôl', -tôl') or Neandertal |
An extinct variety of human that lived throughout Europe and in parts of western Asia and northern Africa during the late Pleistocene Epoch, until about 30,000 years ago. Neanderthals had a stocky build and large skulls with thick eyebrow ridges and big teeth. They usually lived in caves, made flaked stone tools, and were the earliest humans known to bury their dead. Neanderthals were either a subspecies of modern humans (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or a separate, closely related species (Homo neanderthalensis). They coexisted with early modern humans (Cro-Magnons) for several thousand years before becoming extinct, but are not generally believed to have interbred with them. See also Mousterian.
Note: The term Neanderthal is sometimes used to refer to a person who is thought to have primitive or unenlightened ideas: “I tried talking politics to Joe, but he's a real Neanderthal.”