Atavism is a return to a previous way of doing, saying, or seeing things. It can be casual, like wearing retro clothing and listening to vinyl records, or committed, like living in a straw hut without electricity.

  • Pronunciation: /'ætə,vɪzəm/
  • English description: a reappearance of an earlier characteristic
  • Synonyms: reversion
  • Chinese Translation:  返祖现象(fan3 zu3 xian4 xiang4)
  • Spanish Translation: atavismo
  • ORIGIN: It makes sense that atavism comes from a Latin word meaning “forefather,” since it refers to a way of doing things like our ancestors did them. It’s often used negatively, though, to refer to behavior the speaker finds primitive or unacceptable. Atavists are often called "throwbacks." In biology, the term atavism or “evolutionary throwback” is used when animals are born with features that had disappeared, such as legs on a whale.


  • Strive as I might to maintain my nostalgic atavism in the face of onrushing obsolescence, I know that this too shall pass.
  • Ours is the age of miracles and wonderment, of atavism chic.

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