Meaning and origin

The English word „atavistic“ comes from the Latin word „atavus“, which means „ancestor“. It describes

Usage in English

„Atavistic“ is used to describe characteristics or behaviors that originate in the past and are manifested in the present. These traits can be both physical and behavioral and often indicate a return to more primitive or primal states. Here are some examples of how „atavistic“ is used in sentences:

  • “The ancient ritual seemed to awaken an atavistic response in the participants.
  • “His atavistic fear of the dark was something he couldn’t explain.


To expand your vocabulary, it is useful to know synonyms of „atavistic“. These synonyms can be used interchangeably depending on the context:

  • Primitive
  • Ancestral
  • Regressive
  • Rudimentary
  • Vestigial


While “atavistic” places particular emphasis on the reappearance of old features, similar

  • Primitive means “primiti
  • Ancestral means “ancestor-related” and refers
  • Regressive means “backward” and describes a
  • Rudimentary means “rudimentary”
  • Vestigial means “leftover” and refers to surplus

Examples from literature

„Atavistic“ wird häufig in literarischen und wissenschaftlichen Texten verwendet, um die Rückkehr zu früheren Zuständen oder Verhaltensweisen zu beschreiben. Hier ein Beispiel:

  • „The novel explores the atavistic instincts that lie beneath the surface of civilized behavior.“
    (Der Roman untersucht die atavistischen Instinkte, die unter der Oberfläche zivilisierten Verhaltens liegen.)

Biological and anthropological context

The word “atavistic” is closely linked to biology and anthropology, as it is often used to describe the reappearance of traits that were present in previous generations.

  • Biology: “The atavistic trait of a tail in humans is a rare phenomenon.”
  • Anthropology: “Some scholars believe that certain cultural practices have atavistic roots.”


The word „atavistic“ is a precise and interesting word in English used to describe the return of old traits or behaviors. It is particularly useful in scientific, literary, and anthropological contexts and can be replaced by a variety of synonyms to express different nuances of return and inheritance.

Use “atavistic” to expand your English language skills and refine your expression. It’s a word that shows how deep-rooted and complex the connection between past and present can be.

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