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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Gens \Gens\ (j[e^]nz), n.; pl. Gentes (j[e^]n"t[=e]z). [L. See Gentle, a.] (Rom. Hist.)

  1. A clan or family connection, embracing several families of the same stock, who had a common name and certain common religious rites; a subdivision of the Roman curia or tribe.

  2. (Ethnol.) A minor subdivision of a tribe, among American aborigines. It includes those who have a common descent, and bear the same totem.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1847, in reference to ancient Rome, "tribe, clan, house (of families having a name and certain religious rites in common and a presumed common origin)," from Latin gens (genitive gentis) "race, clan, nation" (see genus).


Etymology 1 abbr. generations Etymology 2

n. 1 (context historical English) A legally defined unit of Roman society, being a collection of people related by birth, marriage or adoption, but allowing a greater amount of time between members and their common ancestor than is commonly implied by the term (term related English). 2 (context anthropology English) A tribal subgroup whose members are characterized by having the same descent, usually along the male line.

  1. n. family based on male descent; "he had no sons and there was no one to carry on his name" [syn: name]

  2. [also: gentes (pl)]


In ancient Rome, a gens ( or ), plural gentes, was a family consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps (plural stirpes). The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the period of the Roman Republic. Much of an individual's social standing depended on the gens to which he belonged. Certain gentes were considered patrician, others plebeian, while some had both patrician and plebeian branches. The importance of membership in a gens declined considerably in imperial times.

Gens (behaviour)

In animal behaviour, a gens (pl. gentes) or host race is a host-specific lineage of a brood parasite species. Brood parasites such as cuckoos, which use multiple host species to raise their chicks, evolve different gentes, each one specific to its host species. This specialisation allows the parasites to lay eggs that mimic those of their hosts, which in turn reduces the chances of the eggs being rejected by the hosts.

The exact mechanisms of the evolution and maintenance of gens is still a matter of some research. However, it is believed that in common cuckoos, gens-specific properties are sex-linked and lie on the W chromosome of the female. Male cuckoos, which like all male birds have no W chromosome, are able to mate with females of any gens, and thereby maintain the cuckoo as one species. This is not the case in other brood parasites, such as cowbirds, in which both the male and female imprint on their preferred host. This leads to speciation, such as the indigo bird, which is suggested by the fact they have a more recent evolutionary origin than their hosts.

Gens (disambiguation)

A gens was a family in Ancient Rome in which all of the members typically bore the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor.

Gens can also refer to:

  • Gens (anthropology), a group of people related through their female or male ancestor
Animal Behaviour
  • Gens (behaviour), a specific lineage of animals sharing a specific behavioral trait, inherited from a common ancestor
  • GENS assembler from HiSoft Devpac by HiSoft Systems, an assembler and editor for ZX Spectrum
  • Gens (emulator), an emulator of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis video game console
  • Gens (band), Italian musical group formed in 1967
  • Saint Gens (1104–1127), hermit
  • Véronique Gens (born 1966), French soprano singer
  • Xavier Gens (born 1975), French film director
Gens (anthropology)

Gens was used by Lewis H. Morgan (in Ancient Society) and Friedrich Engels (in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State), among others, to refer to a group of people who were related through their female ancestor (which was the basis of mother right). Confusingly, it is also used to refer to groups of people who are related through their male ancestor by other anthropology writers.

Gens (band)

Gens, also spelled as I Gens, was an Italian pop band best known for the songs "In fondo al viale" and "Per chi".

Usage examples of "gens".

Euntes ergo docete omnes gentes baptizantes eos in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, docentes eos observare omnia quaecumque mandavi vobis, etc.

Among the Teton many groups which were originally sections have become gentes, for the marriage laws do not affect the original phratries, gentes, and subgentes.

Dakota new gentes have been formed by the adoption into the tribe of foreigners, i.

Ponka tribe are considered to be the warriors of the tribe, though members of other gentes have participated in war.

Two Boilings or Two Kettles, Charger knew the names of only two gentes, which he gave to Reverend H.

Oglala gentes was obtained in 1879 from Reverend John Robinson and confirmed in 1880 by a member of the tribe.

Osage gentes as two, in order to have not more than seven gentes on the right side of the tribal circle.

The members of the four gentes of soldiers or policemen meet in council and decide on the time for departure.

Meantime men of different gentes bring cedar, stones, etc, and perform their respective ceremonies.

At the same time the women of the other gentes are blessed in like manner by the headmen of their respective gentes.

Iowa camping circle was divided into two half-circles, occupied by two phratries of four gentes each.

The author is indebted to the late Reverend William Hamilton for a list of the Iowa gentes, obtained in 1880 during a visit to the tribe.

While they have gentes, they have no camping circle, as their priscan habitat was in a forest region.

Quis non plangeret, cum videret flentes Tot honestos nobiles, tam diversas gentes, Cum Thuringis Saxones illuc venientes, Ut viderent socios suos abscedentes.

The membership is composed of men from all the Hano gentes, but not all of any one gens.