"No one before or since has had such a blend of wildness and vulnerability, such pretty-boy looks crossed with such rawness ... James Dean was sui generis." (Robert DiMatteo, Video Review, December 1990)
Sui generis is an adjective pronounced \soo-eye-JEN-uh-rus or soo-ee-JEN-uh-rus\ .Medieval philosophers were probably the first to coin this word as they attempted to explain God as, sui generi or “without a category.” This expression has its roots in the Latin forms of word variations interpreted as birth, race, kind, gender, and class such as "gener-" or "genus." Progeny of these root words incorporate general, generate, generous, generic, degenerate, and gender. However the idiom "sui generis" is truly an in a class of its own; gener- is a descendant that English speakers have used for singular things since the late 1700s.

Dr Dictionary says sui generis is:

    akin to Russian svoi "one's own" and "swami," borrowed from Sanskrit svami "one's own." The dative of this pronoun, sibi "to oneself", is related to Russian sebya "oneself" and English "self." It is also the origin of the sol in "solo, solitary, soliloquy, desolate."
The earliest known written use of this term dates back to 1787 as a derivative from Latin, literally meaning, "of one's own kind”. At one point in time the word was used specifically from a scientific perspective to indicate “substances, principles, diseases, and rocks that were unique or that seemed to be the only representative of their class or group.” The expression describes a person, place, or thing constituting a class alone as in something unique or peculiar; a special phenomena of nature like our sensations of color and taste.

By the onset of the 20th century sui generis had extended past the science world and into more general usage for anything that is only one of a kind, unique; unparalleled; having no equal; as in “Due to revolutionary political changes, the economic situation in Eastern Europe is sui generis.”

Sources:

Communique:
www.seattlecentral.org/pio/012801.html

Merriam-Webster OnLine:
www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary

Online Etymology Dictionary:
www.geocities.com/etymonline/

yourdictionary:
http://www.yourdictionary.com/

Su"i gen"e*ris (?). [L.]

Of his or its own kind.

 

© Webster 1913.

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