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The Champagne vent at the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, a type of hydrothermal vent called a “white smoker”. Some scientists believe that abiogenesis occurred at such deep sea vents.

From Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-, not-, the alpha privative) + βῐ́ος (bíos, life) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *gʷeyh₃- (to live)) + γένεσις (génesis, origin, source; manner of birth; creation) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ǵénh₁tis (birth; production)); equivalent to a- +‎ biogenesis. The words biogenesis and abiogenesis were both coined by English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) in 1870 (see the quotation).[1]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˌeɪbaɪəʊˈdʒɛnəsɪs/, /-ˌbaɪə-/, /-ˌbiːə-/, /-ˌbiːoʊ-/, /-nɪ-/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˌeɪˌbaioʊˈd͡ʒɛnəsɪs/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: abi‧o‧ge‧ne‧sis


abiogenesis (countable and uncountable, plural abiogeneses)

  1. (evolutionary theory) The origination of living organisms from lifeless matter; such genesis as does not involve the action of living parents. [from 1870]
    • 1870 September 17, [Thomas Henry Huxley], “The President’s Address”, in The Athenæum: Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music and the Drama, number 2238, London: Printed by Edward J. Francis, Took's Court, Chancery Lane, published at the office, 20, Wellington Street, Strand, W.C., by John Francis. [...], →OCLC, page 374, columns 2–3:
      And thus the hypothesis that living matter always arises by the agency of pre-existing living matter, took definite shape; [] It will be necessary for me to refer to this hypothesis so frequently, that, to save circumlocution, I shall call it the hypothesis of Biogenesis; and I shall term the contrary doctrine—that living matter may be produced by not living matter—the hypothesis of Abiogenesis.
    • 1872 October 3, “Societies and Academies: Philadelphia”, in Nature: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science, volume VI, London, New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC, page 472, column 2:
      The assertion of [Louis] Pasteur is justified, that the onus probandi [burden of proof] lies with abiogenesists, since there is no experience of any living form more than 11000 of an inch in diameter springing to life out of inorganic matter; it is therefore vastly improbable (needing most cogent evidence to prove), that any form less than 11000 of an inch in size can be made to spring into life from inorganic matter. While abiogenesis is unproved, we hold to the conclusion that vital force is not the mere outcome or resultant of any or all of the other cosmic forces.
    • 1971, Cyril C. Means, Jr., Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates [...], volume 117, part 23, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, →OCLC, page 30820, column 3:
      Life began. There was one abiogenesis when something happened to turn inanimate matter into animate cells. And it happened only once. There are no abiogeneses today. Human life is continuous. Human persons are discontinuous and individual.
    • 1997, Eric Voegelin, “Race as Biological Unit”, in Ruth Hein, transl., edited by Klaus Vondung, Race and State: Translated from the German (The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin; 2), Baton Rouge, La., London: Louisiana State University Press, →ISBN, part I (The Systematic Content of Race Theory), page 45:
      According to [Carl] Nägeli, the highest forms have evolved from the oldest cells produced through abiogenesis, and the lower forms are, depending on their position in the hierarchy, the descendants of respectively more recent abiogenesis.
    • 2014, G. Bradley Schaefer, James N. Thompson, Jr., “Genetics: Unity and Diversity”, in Medical Genetics: An Integrated Approach, New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education, →ISBN, page 3:
      Although abiogenesis, the spontaneous creation of a living system under appropriate conditions, must have occurred at the end of the prebiotic world, spontaneous generation of life no longer occurs.



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  1. ^ Compare Douglas Harper (2001–2024), “abiogenesis”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

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