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[at-uh-vis-tik] /ˌæt əˈvɪs tɪk/
of, relating to, or characterized by atavism; reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type.
Origin of atavistic
1870-75; atav(ism) + -istic
Related forms
atavistically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for atavistic
  • The first of his great masterpieces, the building foreshadows the atavistic landmarks of his late career.
  • There is a far more atavistic element playing out in this war as well.
  • It's atavistic to cling to outmoded methods, but only when the new is actually improved.
  • In evolutionary biology, it can signal an atavistic throwback to an ancestral type.
  • But to bask in it's past glory is nothing short of atavistic nationalism.
  • Making sense of this atavistic code is one of the first challenges for a reporter here.
  • It activates some atavistic pleasure receptors in his brain.
  • Such sentiments are often dismissed as atavistic emotions that should not interfere with public policy or law.
  • She was in the middle of an atavistic ritual that might have made a scene in one of her seven books.
  • However domesticated a goose, its wakefulness and its atavistic alertness to danger has not been bred out of it.
British Dictionary definitions for atavistic


of or relating to reversion to a former or more primitive type
Derived Forms
atavistically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for atavistic

"pertaining to atavism," 1847; see atavism + -ic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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atavistic in Science
Relating to an inherited trait that reappears in an individual after being absent from a strain of organism for several generations. Atavistic traits were formerly thought to be throwbacks to ancestral types but are now known to be due to the inheritance of a pair of recessive genes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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