Definition of gens in US English:



  • 1A group of families in ancient Rome who shared a name and claimed a common origin.

    • ‘Romulus and Aeneas were also considered ancestors of the gens Julia to which Augustus belonged.’
    • ‘As Tiberius was immediately adopted by Augustus, Germanicus became a member of the Julian gens in the direct line of succession; and his career was accelerated by special dispensations.’
    • ‘In contrast to the objects associated with the Pannonic burials attributed to the gens Langobardorum, as well as older Italian evidence, these were remarkable for their militaristic nature.’
  • 2Anthropology
    A group of people who are related through their male ancestors.

    • ‘Roman law gave a priority to the ius civile, the laws of the city of Rome itself, but there was also the ius gentium, recognitions of the indigenous laws of the gens, the tribes, the other peoples and cultures in the empire.’
    • ‘It preserves an original charisma that sets apart a particular house, family, Sib, gens, or clan.’
    • ‘It is important to note that hairstyle was sometimes a marker of class or gens, as among the Merovingians.’
    • ‘Kinship was based, during this early phase of human history, on the gens, or clan, ‘in which descent was traced wholly through the mother…’’
    group of families, sept
    View synonyms


Latin, from the root of gignere ‘beget’.