Definitions and etymological sources apparently are not in agreement as shown in the various references indicated below:
1. A chromosomal genome inside the nucleus of the cell in the familiar form of chromosomes.
2. A mitochondrial genome outside the nucleus in the cytoplasm of the cell, usually in the form of one round chromosome (the mitochondrial chromosome).
3. Etymology: The word genome dates to 1930. It was cobbled from the German Gen
, "gene" + -om
(from the Greek soma
, "body"). In the 1990s, genome went from being a highly specialized term not even in much usage in genetics to a word that is now in common general currency.
As with all revolutions, the "Genetics Revolution" has ushered in a revolution in words.
1. The total genetic information present in a cell.
2. In diploid cells, the genetic information contained in one chromosome set.
3. The genetic information contained in a haploid gamete of a diploid organism.
4. Etymology: German Genom
, from Gen
, "gene, factor" + (Chromos)om
1. A complete set of chromosomes derived from one parent, the haploid number of a gamete.
2. The total gene complement of a set of chromosomes found in higher life forms (the haploid set in a eukaryotic cell), or the functionally similar but simpler liner arrangements found in bacteria and viruses.
3. Etymology: gene + -ome
, suffix denoting a defined system or microcosm, from Greek -oma
, noun suffix.
Etymology: "sum total of genes in a set", 1930, from German genom
; coined in 1920 by German botanist Hans Winkler, from gen
, "gene" + (chromos)om
One more view about the etymology of genome
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) attributes genome to Hans Winkler, 1920; the full reference is his book Verbreitung und Ursache der Parthenogenesis im Pflanzen-und Tierreiche, (Verlag Fischer, Jena).
At page 165, he writes (in rough translation): "I propose the expression Genom for the haploid chromosome set, which, together with the pertinent protoplasm, specifies the material foundations of the species ...."
He discusses this in the context of hybrids that may comprise distinctive genomes from the respective parents, and are then heterogenomatisch. The term was used sporadically in the 1920s and 1930s.
Theodosius Dobzhansky scorned it; he would have preferred a "non-committal expression like 'set of chromosomes.'" (1937: Genetics and the Origin of Species).
The OED also offers an etymology, that Winkler's Genom is an irregular formation from gen + some—from chromosome—and this is recopied in many other sources.
As a botanist, Winkler must have been familiar with a host of -ome words like biome, rhizome, phyllome, thallome, tracheome; all of which predated 1920. They share in common, the concept of -ome signifying the collectivity of the units in the stem.
Thus rhizome is the entire root system, or modifications thereof. Any zoologist would have known coelome, or system of cavities. Hence, genome would be understood to be the collectivity of the genes.
Joshua Lederberg is professor-emeritus and Sackler Foundation Scholar at The Rockefeller University. He has played the neological game himself with entries like plasmid, exobiology, euphenics, and prototroph. Eugram (for what is now called E-mail) never caught on.
Alexa T. McCray is the director of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications. She is a linguist by training and inclination.
See geno-, gen for a list of other gene, etc. words.