The Scientific Language of Genetics

Part of the Genetics For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From chromosomes to DNA to dominant and recessive alleles, learning the language of genetics is equivalent to learning the subject itself. The following key terms are guaranteed to appear frequently in your study of all things genetic:

  • Alleles: Alternative forms of a gene

  • Autosomal chromosome: A nonsex chromosome

  • Chromosome: A linear or circular strand composed of DNA that contains genes

  • Diploid: An organism with two copies of each chromosome

  • DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid; the molecule that carries genetic information

  • Dominant: A phenotype or allele that completely masks the presence of the other, recessive allele in the heterozygote

  • Gene: The fundamental unit of heredity; a specific section of DNA within a chromosome

  • Genotype: The genetic makeup of an individual; the allele(s) possessed at a given locus

  • Heterozygote: An individual with two different alleles of a given gene or locus

  • Homozygote: An individual with two identical alleles of a given gene or locus

  • Locus: A specific location on a chromosome

  • Phenotype: The physical characteristics of an individual

  • Recessive: A phenotype or allele exhibited only when homozygous

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