The Joy of Language Learning

The “Genesis” of a Few Terms

The Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week is celebrated every year from February 7th to 14th every year. The word congenital means an abnormality or disease that a person is born with, specifically focusing on heart diseases in the preceding sentence. But why congenital and not any other word? Congenital is derived from the Latin congenitus meaning born or produced together which itself consist of the Latin con-(with) and our focus for today, the Proto-Indo-European root gene.

The Proto-Indo-European root gene- essentially refers to giving birth or to beget. It is thus utilized in a variety of English words that signify birth, origin or in a sense that relates to them.

Genesis, a Greek word but with the same root simply means origin or creation. It is also the name of the first book of the Bible which documents how God created the universe and everything else contained within it. Borrowing from it we have generate which is a verb that means to produce and generator refers to the entity producing something. Genesis also inspired the term genetic which essentially meant relating to origin or birth and genetics – the laws that govern origination. In the modern times, however, both the words are used in a slightly different sense. Genetics is the study of genes (the basis unit of heredity that define the fundamental characters of an offspring during birth, present in cells) and genetic refers to relating to genes as in a genetic defect. Genitals (plural: Genitalia) refer to human sex organs.

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Family Tree
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Many of the words currently in use are just the prefixed versions of the same one root like the word congenital that we met in the beginning. Similarly, Progeny (Latin pro (forth) + gignere (birth)) means person’s children or descendants and the person is called a progenitor, which can also be used to refer to a founder or an initiator. For example, it can be said that Germany, under Adolf Hitler, was the progenitor of World War 2. Primogenital (Latin primus: first)means relating to the first child of an individual and primogeniture refers to the right of the first born male child to lay exclusive claim to inheritance.

Another sub-group of words signify something specific being brought into existence. A familiar word in this respect should be pathogen (from Greek pathos: illness) which is used to refer to disease causing microbes.

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Another word in this chain is carcinogen or a substance that causes cancer. Tobacco smoke, for instance, contains various chemicals that have been classified as carcinogens. Common gases were also given name on the basis of what the produced like Oxygen (Oxy: acid) and Hydrogen (Hydros: water)

Try the quiz about the words you just learnt after going through the table summary below.

Table Summary:

GenesisOrigin or birth
GenerateTo produce
Generate-orSomething that produces something
Gene-ticsRelated to genes
ProgenySomeone’s children or descendants
ProgenitorThe originator or founder
GenitalHuman sex organs
Primo-GenitalRelating to the first child
Primo-GenitureA custom that gives the first born male child the exclusive right to inheritance
Pathos-genOriginator of a disease
Carcino-genOriginator of cancer
Oxy-genGas that helps us breathe (also forms acidic oxides)
Hydro-genGas that combines with oxygen to from water, also used as fuel

Welcome to Genus Quiz

________________ can cause various diseases in our body.

What does "generate" mean in the given headline?


Down syndrome is an example of a _______________ disorder. (inherited)

What does "progeny" mean in the given headline?


If someone suffers from a congenital disease, they have had it since:

What does "Carcinogen" mean in the given headline?


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