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[jeen] /dʒin/
the basic physical unit of heredity; a linear sequence of nucleotides along a segment of DNA that provides the coded instructions for synthesis of RNA, which, when translated into protein, leads to the expression of hereditary character.
1911; < German Gen (1909), apparently abstracted from -gen -gen; introduced by Danish geneticist Wilhelm L. Johannsen (1857-1927)
Can be confused
genes, jeans.


[jeen] /dʒin/
a male given name, form of Eugene. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for genes
  • The technique aims to give patients new genes to treat diseases and inherited.
  • But the genes typically do not replicate across studies.
  • Yet scientists have only identified a few of the silk genes from a small number of species.
  • Even with a healthy lifestyle, genes are the deciding factor in whether someone gets a chronic illness, such as heart disease.
  • Sometimes, usually within the past hundred or so generations, variations of certain genes appear.
  • Zinc fingers are the killer app for gene therapy because they can turn off genes that may be causing problems.
  • Specific genes have been definitively linked to certain diseases.
  • With the latest grants, researchers will sequence abnormal genes that may help cause cancer and other common diseases.
  • Most of these, however, are interested only in the genes themselves.
  • Our hair is rooted in reptilian claws, according to a new study that revealed hair genes in both lizards and birds.
British Dictionary definitions for genes


a unit of heredity composed of DNA occupying a fixed position on a chromosome (some viral genes are composed of RNA). A gene may determine a characteristic of an individual by specifying a polypeptide chain that forms a protein or part of a protein (structural gene); or encode an RNA molecule; or regulate the operation of other genes or repress such operation See also operon
Word Origin
C20: from German Gen, shortened from Pangen; see pan-, -gen
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 genes



1911, from German Gen, coined 1905 by Danish scientist Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen (1857-1927), from Greek genea "generation, race" (see genus). De Vries had earlier called them pangenes. Gene pool is attested from 1950.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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genes in Medicine

gene (jēn)
A hereditary unit that occupies a specific location on a chromosome, determines a particular characteristic in an organism by directing the formation of a specific protein, and is capable of replicating itself at each cell division.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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genes in Science
A segment of DNA, occupying a specific place on a chromosome, that is the basic unit of heredity. Genes act by directing the production of RNA, which determines the synthesis of proteins that make up living matter and are the catalysts of all cellular processes. The proteins that are determined by genetic DNA result in specific physical traits, such as the shape of a plant leaf, the coloration of an animal's coat, or the texture of a person's hair. Different forms of genes, called alleles, determine how these traits are expressed in a given individual. Humans are thought to have about 35,000 genes, while bacteria have between 500 and 6,000. See also dominant, recessive. See Note at Mendel.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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genes in Culture

gene definition

A portion of a DNA molecule that serves as the basic unit of heredity. Genes control the characteristics that an offspring will have by transmitting information in the sequence of nucleotides on short sections of DNA.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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