In some languages there is a common pathetic hyperbole that goes like "the origin of origins" or "beginning of beginnings". Is there anything similar in English [or Latin]?

Context: consider a situation where you see a bad translation into English and want to help someone out. With a phrase in the heading like "This important process is the beginning of beginnings [meaning you can't possibly get going in any of the related processes without entering this one]" - what would you suggest? Or if it were a song with the words in another language saying "home sweet home, the origin of origins" that you want to explain to your English-speaking friends?

  • 5
    It should be noted that English and other Western languages will tend to reference Judeo-Christian traditions for terms like this.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:37
  • Thank you all, seems like there's nothing better for my case of the "origin of all" than the "big bang" :) Not exactly what I expected, but still hits the point. Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 21:38

13 Answers 13


If something is a sine qua non, it's absolutely necessary for something else to work or make sense. For example, you could say that walking is a sine qua non for running. This doesn't fit your second sense (origin of origins) very well, though

  • It might be the best to fit the initial purpose in the described context. Thanks! Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 9:47

Genesis is the term generally used:

  • the coming into being of something; the origin.

  • a beginning or origin of anything

  • This chapter will trace the genesis and development of the oldest human civilisation.

also dawn:

  • A first appearance; a beginning:
    • the dawn of history.
  • Thanks, I know the term, it is widely used in philosophy and science. However it is not so pathetic or hyperbolic as I had hoped, not adding much emphasis either :) Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 7:42
  • What do you mean by pathetic hyperbole? a humorous way to express the concept?
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 7:46
  • Actually, the word Origin itself is closer to what I meant than the Genesis. The Source is not bad either, but it also less expressive than the expression I'm looking for. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 7:47
  • Well, consider a situation where you see a bad translation into English and want to help someone out. With a phrase in the heading like "This important process is the beginning of beginnings [meaning you can't possibly get going in any of the related processes without entering this one]" - what would you suggest? Or if it were a song with the words in another language saying "home sweet home, the origin of origins" that you want to explain to your English-speaking friends? Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 7:51
  • the very beginning of (something) is the expression I'd probably use.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 7:54

First Cause:


A supposed ultimate cause of all events, which does not itself have a cause, identified with God.


'Ur', as in the phrase 'Ur example' or 'The Guttenberg Bible is the ur-book'.

[Edit 03/04/2015]

"Forming words with the sense of ‘proto-, primitive, original’."

Source; Wictionary http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ur-

"The Ur Example is the oldest known example of any given trope. Ur-' is just a German prefix meaning 'proto-, primitive, or original.'"

Source; TV Tropes http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UrExample

An "ur-book" would be (one of) the oldest known example(s). In that context, the Guttenberg Bible would not be an 'ur-book' but it would be the ur-example of the printed book.

The ENIGMA machine could be thought of as the ur-computer. It almost certainly wasn't the first functional computer but it is the first example that is generally known. Charles Babbage's analytical engine could also be thought of in this way, as it was conceived at an earlier time, but it was entirely theoretical and no contemporary examples were ever constructed.

  • 2
    This could become a good answer. Please elaborate and provide some reference.
    – ScotM
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 16:33
  • What is a ur-book???
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 13:47
  • A good answer, but I don't think many people would understand it without consulting reference. Especially non-natives. Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 9:40

Are you looking for the term, "Big Bang?" Genesis in Greek means origin, creation, generation or formation of everything γένεσις, or 'gignesthai.'

A "requisite step" or ignition semantically different from genesis.

  • Out of interest, when you write 'gignesthai', what does that represent? It is by no means an acceptable transliteration of γένεσις, but you seem to imply that...
    – oerkelens
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:10
  • it means "be born or produced", it is the etymological forerunner of genesis. Do you know Classical Greek?
    – Abe
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 15:37

My answer would be ab ovo gemini or ab ovo for the beginning of beginnings. What you're looking for is most probably fundamental, elementary or basic. Depending on your relation to given person you might want to top it with a "my dear Watson."


If you want a Latin phrase that’s used in English for this, it’s ab initio. That’s just Latin for “from the beginning”, but because it’s Latin inside English, it has a stronger meaning than just “from the beginning”. In an appropriate context, it could carry exactly the meaning you’re trying to express.

On the other hand, it sounds like you’re looking for a noun, and ab initio is not suitable as a noun. It’s an adverbial phrase or an adjectival phrase usually coming after what it modifies, as in “The house’s foundations must be correct ab initio or all further construction will fail regardless of its quality.” Ab initio is probably not appropriate for a song; it’s mainly used as a technical term in English, especially in science and law, as you can see here and explained here.

St. Jerome translated the opening of the book of Genesis as in principio, which is sometimes used in English, as does yet another Latin synonym for this same idea, de origine. Neither of these is nearly as well-known as ab initio, but they might be more appropriate for pathetic hyperbole, depending on your audience.


From vocabulary.com- expression for “origin of ...

derivation : a fancy word for the origin or root of something.

  • often used in reference to abstract concepts — such as words, names or ideas.


cradle: the noun version of cradle can be used to poetically describe the birthplace of a movement or the area where an early idea was nurtured.

  • Ancient Greece-known as "the cradle of democracy."

Those ones may not fit the context perfectly, but one can find a use in them as well, at some point.


Arche (ἀρχή) is a Greek word with primary senses 'beginning', 'origin' or 'first cause'. Later, 'power', 'sovereignty', 'domination' as extended meanings were accepted by some.


  • place or source of origin: a manuscript of unknown provenance.
  • where something originated or was nurtured in its early existence; "the birthplace of civilization"


  • something that is essential or basic.
  • a person or thing of prime importance; basis: the cornerstone of the whole argument.

Egregore (not that close, but I add it to widen your choices)

Egregore (also egregor) is an occult concept representing a "thoughtform" or "collective group mind", an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme.


Please, forgive my intrusion. I am way out of my league, here. Still, I would like to offer "alpha" as a possible solution. Though of Greek origin, it is an English noun and relatively well understood by English speakers to mean "beginning," as in "first principle." If I recall correctly, alpha is the word for ox. The ox and the plough were essential in establishing a surplus of food. Good geography contributed to a settled life. The ox contributed to a thriving society. Food surplus led to trade, which led to specialized labor, the growth of cities, and the need for government, religion and law. It is essential to the development of civilization. The ox was so important that it became synonymous with "beginning." As such, the Phoenicians made it the first letter of their alphabet for yet another important element of civilization, writing. This chain of thought--this path to civilization--is poetic. It is the core of who we are. It is our shared truth.

I am sorry that I can offer no links to resources or quotes in support of my ideas. I am no scholar. I am simply recalling my impressions from many years of education fundamentals in the study of the visual arts, world history and religion. This is basic high school stuff. It has, however, made a lasting impression on me as an archetype for fundamental principles. I enjoy simplifying things to essences and a lowest common denominator. I suppose that makes me less of a postmodernist and more a hopelessly old-fashion modernist.


What comes to my mind is "The Origin of All", but I don't know if it's common enough or if it would mean the same thing to English speakers :(

  • @Josh61 what would you say? Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 8:02
  • 1
    that is a very plain expression ..nothing pathetic or hyperbolic about it, but ok.
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 8:04
  • Except for capitalization, right? :) Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 8:05
  • Why, it's a candidate for an answer this time, not a comment. Maybe someone will support it by upvoting or discourage by commenting adversely :) Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 8:06

The "dawn of time".


Gigantic Black Hole Discovered From the Dawn of Time

Astronomers find a cosmic monster that pushes theories of the early universe to the limit.



Let's start at the beginning. According to Cosmology, it all started with...

If I want to be coy, you get this answer from me:

First the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then... -Airplane II

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