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From parthen- +‎ -o- +‎ -genesis, from Ancient Greek παρθένος (parthénos, virgin) and γένεσις (génesis, origin, creation, generation).


  • (Received Pronunciation) enPR: pär'thĭnōjĕʹnĭsĭs, pär'thənōjĕʹnĭsĭs, IPA(key): /ˌpɑːθɪnəʊˈd͡ʒɛnɪsɪs/, /ˌpɑːθənəʊˈd͡ʒɛnɪsɪs/
  • (General American) enPR: pär'thənōjĕʹnĭsĭs, IPA(key): /ˌpɑɹθɪnoʊˈd͡ʒɛnɪsɪs/, /ˌpɑɹθənoʊˈd͡ʒɛnɪsɪs/
  • Hyphenation: par‧the‧no‧gen‧e‧sis


parthenogenesis (usually uncountable, plural parthenogeneses)

  1. (biology) Referring to various aspects of asexual reproduction:
    1. (biology, countable, uncountable) (An instance of) reproduction by the development of a single gamete (an ovum or ovule) without fertilisation by a gamete of the opposite sex; compare metagenesis, heterogamy.
      • 2008 October 15, "Virgin Shark Gives Birth", AFP via Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
        Scientists say the birth is the second confirmed instance of a shark being conceived by parthenogenesis, a process in which an unfertilised egg develops into a new individual.
    2. (biology, uncountable, formerly) Asexual reproduction in toto; agamogenesis.
  2. (countable and uncountable) figurative uses of the biological senses
    • 1870: James Russell Lowell, Among My Books, series I, Shakespeare Once More, page 223
      We may learn, to be sure, plenty of lessons from Shakespeare. We are not likely to have kingdoms to divide, crowns foretold us by weird sisters, a father’s death to avenge, or to kill our wives from jealously ; but Lear may teach us to draw the line more clearly between a wise generosity and a loose-handed weakness of giving ; Macbeth, how one sin involves another, and forever another, by a fatal parthenogenesis, and that the key which unlocks forbidden doors to our will or passion leaves a stain on the hand, that may not be so dark as blood, but that will not out ; Hamlet, that all the noblest gifts of person, temperament, and mind slip like sand through the grasp of an infirm purpose ; Othello, that the perpetual silt of some one weakness, the eddies of a suspicious temper depositing their one impalpable layer after another, may build up a shoal on which an heroic life and an otherwise magnanimous nature may bilge and go to pieces.
  3. (theology) Virgin birth, in reference to the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
    • 1927, James Samuel Stone, The cult of Santiago: traditions, myths, and pilgrimages[1], page 58:
      So one might reasonably be led to hold, for instance, that the parthenogenesis of Christ does not beget faith in Christ []
    • 1966, Thomas F. O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology[2], page 227:
      His theology offers four objections on dogmatic grounds commonly adduced by contemporary Protestant criticism to cast doubt on Mary’s parthenogenesis.
    • 1999, Carol V. Kaske, Spenser and Biblical poetics, →ISBN, page 177:
      Christ’s parthenogenesis exalts woman.

Related terms[edit]