what is atavistic impulse?


Senior Member
Hi everyone,

What is an atavistic impulse in the following text:
The Mesolithic English lived in settlements such as that found at Thatcham in Berkshire; the modern town itself is in fact the latest version of human community on the same site. Some atavistic impulse keeps habitations in the same place.
I have looked up the words and here is my rephrase. Is it correct?

Some sudden, genetically inherited desire keeps habitations in the same place.
Thank you very much.
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    impulse /ˈɪmpʌls/ n
    • an impelling force or motion; thrust; impetus
    • a sudden desire, whim, or inclination
    • an instinctive drive; urge

    atavism /ˈætəˌvɪzəm/ n
    • the recurrence in a plant or animal of certain primitive characteristics that were present in an ancestor but have not occurred in intermediate generations
    • reversion to a former or more primitive type
    Some atavistic impulse keeps habitations in the same place.
    Some instinctive urge to revert to a former state keeps habitations in the same place.


    Senior Member
    I'd drop "genetically inherited" from that answer, newname.

    To me, "atavistic impulse" in that sentence means "an impulse to behave as earlier humans behaved."

    cross-posted with Biffo


    Senior Member
    Thank you two. Historians like to use such high-register, obscure words that non-natives like me find it hard to understand, even with lots of dictionaries around.
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