Try Our Apps


Supposedly vs. Supposably


[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.
Origin of gene
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.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for genes
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Fortunately, the pair of well-worn trousers were Freds, for had they been genes they would never have answered.

    Center Rush Rowland Ralph Henry Barbour
  • The aliens changed our genes so we would be able to use all of our brains.

    Earth Alert! Kris Neville
  • Mutations, sort of unexpected changes, can take place in either the chromosomes or the genes.

    Thy Rocks and Rills Robert Ernest Gilbert
  • If our genes have been bollixed up, we've got to find out why and how and get to work on it immediately.

    Where There's Hope Jerome Bixby
  • Mother's brains began to get hurt and kicked around when she was small, I think—but not by the genes.

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
Cite This Source
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
Cite This Source
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.
Cite This Source
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.
Cite This Source
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.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for gene

All English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for genes

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for genes