or·i·gin (ôrə-jĭn, ŏr-)
1. The point at which something comes into existence or from which it derives or is derived.
2. often origins Ancestry: "We cannot escape our origins, however hard we try" (James Baldwin).
3. The fact of originating; rise or derivation: The rumor had its origin in an impulsive remark.
4. Anatomy The point of attachment of a muscle that remains relatively fixed during contraction.
5. Mathematics The point of intersection of coordinate axes, as in the Cartesian coordinate system.
[Middle English origine, ancestry, from Latin orīgō, orīgin-, from orīrī, to arise, be born; see er-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: origin, inception, source, root1
These nouns signify the point at which something originates. Origin is the point at which something comes into existence: The origins of some words are unknown. When origin refers to people, it means parentage or ancestry: "He came ... of mixed French and Scottish origin" (Charlotte Brontë).
Inception is the beginning, as of an action or process: The researcher was involved in the project from its inception. Source signifies the point at which something springs into being or from which it derives or is obtained: "The mysterious ... is the source of all true art and science" (Albert Einstein).
Root denotes what is considered the fundamental cause of or basic reason for something: "Lack of money is the root of all evil" (George Bernard Shaw).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus