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 ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.