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See also: biogénesis and biogènesis




An 1870 wood engraving of English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, produced in the year that he coined the words biogenesis and abiogenesis

From Ancient Greek 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)). The words biogenesis and abiogenesis were both coined by English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) in 1870 (see the quotation).[1]

The word biogenesis was first used by English physiologist and neurologist Henry Charlton Bastian (1837–1915) around 1869 to mean “life-origination or commencement” in an unpublished exchange of correspondence with Irish physicist John Tyndall. However, in an 1871 book,[2] Bastian announced he was adopting a new term, archebiosis, because of the confusion that might be caused by Huxley’s use of biogenesis with a different meaning.

Equivalent to bio- +‎ genesis.


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /bʌɪə(ʊ)ˈdʒɛnəsɪs/, /baɪə-/, /baɪoʊ-/, /biːə-/, /biːoʊ-/, /-nɪ-/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˌbaioʊˈd͡ʒɛnəsɪs/
  • Audio (UK):(file)
  • Hyphenation: bi‧o‧ge‧ne‧sis



biogenesis (usually uncountable, plural biogeneses)

  1. The principle that living organisms are produced only from other living organisms.
    • 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.
    • 2013 March–April, Harold J. Morowitz, “The Smallest Cell [letter]”, in American Scientist[2], volume 101, number 2, archived from the original on 4 January 2017, page 83:
      It is likely that the long evolutionary trajectory of Mycoplasma went from a reductive autotroph to oxidative heterotroph to a cell-wall–defective degenerate parasite. This evolutionary trajectory assumes the simplicity to complexity route of biogenesis, a point of view that is not universally accepted.
  2. Biosynthesis.


  • (antonym(s) of principle that living organisms are produced only from other living organisms): abiogenesis

Derived terms



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  1. ^ Compare Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “biogenesis”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ H[enry] Charlton Bastian (1871) “Preface”, in The Modes of Origin of Lowest Organisms; including a Discussion of the Experiments of M. Pasteur, and a Reply to Some Statements by Professors Huxley and Tyndall[1], London, New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Company, →OCLC.

Further reading