• genesis •
je-nê-sis • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. The origin or beginnings of something. 2. (Capitalized: Genesis) The first book of the Old Testament, which presents the Biblical account of the origin of the world. 3. (Combining form) Creation of, by, or from, as autogenesis "self-creation" (the theory that a living organism can be derived from nonliving matter) and hallucinogenesis, the creation of hallucinations.
Notes: Words that end on -is in English pluralize by switching the [i] to [e], so the plural of today's Good Word is geneses. Genesic has been tried as an adjective by a few, but we do not recommend it. The natural adjective for genesis would be genetic, but this adjective is now ineluctably associated with gene. It does serve adjectivally as a combining form so that autogenetic is the adjective for autogenesis.
In Play: Today's word is a bit more pointed and specific than source, though it is closer to origin: "If you have a good ear for music, you can hear the genesis of jazz in ragtime." It generally speaks to the issue of where and how things start up: "Hans Orf has deep-seated psychological problems whose genesis has eluded five different psychoanalysts."
Word History: Today's word was passed down without change from the Greek word genesis "origin, source" to Latin and from Latin to English and other languages. The original PIE root was *gen-/gon- "to give birth to", found also in Latin genus "race, kind", which underlies several English words, including genus: gender, gene, genetic, genocide. The same PIE root reached English as cyn "race, family", which went on to become kin and, with the suffix -d, kind. With the common suffix -ing, it served as cyning "king" in Old English, then went on to become, well, king in Modern English. (The genesis of today's Good Word is Larry Brady, the Stargazer of our Agora, to whom we owe a word of gratitude.)
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