\ ˈer How to pronounce heir (audio) \

Definition of heir

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : one who receives property from an ancestor : one who is entitled to inherit property was her father's sole heir
2 : one who inherits or is entitled to succeed to a hereditary rank, title, or office heir to the throne
3 : one who receives or is entitled to receive something other than property from a parent or predecessor saw himself as the logical heir to the slain dictator


heired; heiring; heirs

Definition of heir (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

chiefly dialectal

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Other Words from heir


heirless \ ˈer-​ləs How to pronounce heirless (audio) \ adjective
heirship \ ˈer-​ˌship How to pronounce heirship (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for heir

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of heir in a Sentence

Noun His heirs could inherit millions of dollars. The king left no heirs when he died.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Thailand has one of the world's strictest lese majeste laws, forbidding criticism of the King, Queen, heir-apparent or regent. Helen Regan, CNN, "Thailand's government vows to protect the monarchy after weekend of unrest," 19 Oct. 2020 That doesn’t offer a full picture of the Hyatt hotel heir’s vast wealth, much of which is held in domestic and offshore trusts set up by his grandfather. Lisa Donovan, chicagotribune.com, "The Spin: Chicago police prepare for Election Day unrest | O’Brien outpaces Foxx in fundraising | Pritzker’s state income tax bill would rise to $10.5 million under graduated tax," 16 Oct. 2020 Mosse died in 1920 and his daughter Felicia Lachmann-Mosse was his heir. Michael Hill, Star Tribune, "Jewish family's painting looted by Nazis in 1933 is returned," 15 Oct. 2020 An heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune who provided financial support to Keith Raniere, the disgraced leader of NXIVM, is set to face a federal judge on Wednesday when she could be sentenced to up to five years behind bars. NBC News, "NXVIM benefactor Clare Bronfman who gave financial support to Keith Raniere faces sentencing," 30 Sep. 2020 Succession star Jeremy Strong won the drama actor trophy for his role as an aspiring heir. Jeremy Hallock, Dallas News, "‘Schitt’s Creek’ makes history at Emmys, sweeping comedy awards," 20 Sep. 2020 In the years since the 2015 attack, Charlie Hebdo, an heir to a long tradition of French anticlerical irreverence, has become a national symbol. James Mcauley, Washington Post, "Charlie Hebdo republishes Mohammed cartoon ahead of shooting trial," 1 Sep. 2020 Many Spanish students are also confirmed into the Catholic faith during their sophomore year, although it's not known if Leonor will do so because of the combination of COVID and her position as heir to the House of Bourbon, reported El Pais. Georgia Slater, PEOPLE.com, "Spain's Princess Leonor and Princess Sofia Quarantine After Classmate Tests Positive for COVID-19," 12 Sep. 2020 Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, the company’s vice chair and de-facto leader, has been indicted…again. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "Fortune’s 40 Under 40 honorees in tech defy the pandemic," 2 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Queen Elizabeth II's son and heir to the British throne Prince Charles tested positive for Covid-19 while his wife Camilla was negative. NBC News, "Trump joins Johnson, Bolsonaro in club of leaders diagnosed with Covid," 2 Oct. 2020 Seagram's liquor fortune heir Clare Bronfman was taken into custody to begin her 81-month sentence immediately after her appearance in federal court in Brooklyn. CBS News, "Heiress who bankrolled NXIVM sentenced to seven years in prison," 30 Sep. 2020 Seagram’s liquor fortune heir Clare Bronfman was taken into custody to begin her 81-month sentence immediately after her appearance in federal court in Brooklyn. Fox News, "Seagram’s heir sentenced to prison in branded sex slave case," 30 Sep. 2020 Jim Walton, heir to the Walmart fortune, contributed $550,000. Annie Martin, orlandosentinel.com, "School voucher debate key focus in Florida races," 25 Sep. 2020 The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins, Peaky Blinders), heir to a business empire that is close to achieving global dominance, to the detriment of Saito's own business interests. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Can’t watch Tenet? Now is the perfect time to revisit Inception," 7 Sep. 2020 In June, a group of more than 100 employees sent a letter to the chairman, family heir William Lauder, voicing their concerns about race relations at the company. chicagotribune.com, "After decades of unmet diversity goals, some major employers turn to hard racial quotas," 1 Sep. 2020 In June, a group of more than 100 employees sent a letter to the chairman, family heir William Lauder, voicing their concerns about race relations at the company. Kim Bhasin, Bloomberg.com, "Wells Fargo, Delta Join a Nascent Push Into Racial Hiring Quotas," 1 Sep. 2020 Other family members at the meal included King Harald's son and heir to the Norwegian throne, Crown Prince Haakon; his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit; and their children, Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus. Annie Goldsmith, Town & Country, "The Norwegian Royal Family Rings in Summer with a New Group Photo," 6 July 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'heir.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of heir


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for heir


Middle English eir, eyre, heir, borrowed from Anglo-French heir, going back to Vulgar Latin *hērem, *hēre, taken as oblique forms (by declension reassignment) of Latin hērēd-, hērēs, from hēr- (probably going back to Indo-European *ǵheh1ro- "abandoned, derelict," whence also Greek chêros "widowed, orphaned, bereaved," chérā "widow") + -ēd-, perhaps a suffixal element

Note: Latin hērēd- has been directly compared with the base of Greek chērōstaí "kinsmen inheriting the property of a person lacking closer relatives" (with the agent suffix -tēs). Opposing the interpretation of *-ēd-/*-ōd- as a suffixal element is an older explanation that sees the etymon as a compound of *ǵheh1ro- and the verbal base *h1ed- "eat"—the whole hence meaning approximately "that which devours what is left behind." (The Greek outcome would then be from *ǵheh1ro-h1d-, with zero grade of the verb.) The adjective *ǵheh1ro- has been taken as a derivative of the verbal base *ǵheh1- "let go, leave behind" (see go entry 1).


Middle English erren, heyren, derivative of eir, eyre heir entry 1

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Time Traveler for heir

Time Traveler

The first known use of heir was in the 13th century

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Statistics for heir

Last Updated

24 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Heir.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heir. Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for heir


How to pronounce heir (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of heir

: a person who has the legal right to receive the property of someone who dies
: a person who has the right to become a king or queen or to claim a title when the person holding it dies


\ ˈer How to pronounce heir (audio) \

Kids Definition of heir

1 : a person who inherits or has the right to inherit property after the death of its owner
2 : a person who has legal claim to a title or a throne when the person holding it dies


\ ˈar How to pronounce heir (audio) \

Legal Definition of heir

: one who inherits or is entitled to succeed to the possession of property after the death of its owner: as
a : one who by operation of law inherits the property and especially the real property of a person who dies without leaving a valid will used in jurisdictions whose law is based on English common law

called also heir at law, heir general, legal heir

— compare issue
b in the civil law of Louisiana : one who succeeds to the estate of a person by will or especially by operation of law — see also intestacy, unworthy — compare ancestor, devisee, legatee, next of kin, successor
apparent heir
: heir apparent in this entry
beneficiary heir
in the civil law of Louisiana : an heir who exercises the benefit of inventory which limits the amount of his or her liability for the decedent's debts
bodily heir
: heir of the body in this entry
forced heir
: an heir who cannot be disinherited except for causes recognized by law especially, in the civil law of Louisiana : an heir who because of youth or mental or physical infirmity cannot care for himself or herself and who cannot be deprived of his or her lawful portion of the decedent's estate by disinherison without just cause — see also legitime
heir ab intestato \ -​ˌab-​ˌin-​tes-​ˈtā-​tō, -​ˌäb-​ˌin-​tes-​ˈtä-​tō \ plural heirs ab intestato
in the civil law of Louisiana : an heir that takes only by operation of the laws governing intestate succession
heir apparent plural heirs apparent
: an heir whose right to an inheritance cannot be voided or undone except by exclusion under a valid will if he or she survives the ancestor

called also apparent heir

— compare heir presumptive in this entry
heir at law
heir general plural heirs general
heir in tail
: an heir to a fee-tail estate

called also heir of entail

heir of the body
: an heir who is a lineal descendant especially as contrasted with a collateral descendant

called also bodily heir

heir presumptive plural heirs presumptive
: an heir whose right to inherit may be defeated by the birth of a nearer relative or by exclusion under a valid will

called also presumptive heir

— compare heir apparent in this entry
instituted heir
in the civil law of Louisiana : an heir who is named in the will but whose legacy will fall to a substitute legatee under a vulgar substitution in the event that he or she refuses the legacy or dies before the testator

called also instituted legatee

irregular heir
in the civil law of Louisiana : an heir who inherits a right of action to the estate as distinguished from seisin

Note: This class of heirs was eliminated as of January 1, 1982. Formerly, a decedent's illegitimate children and spouse were considered irregular heirs.

legal heir
: heir sense a specifically, in the civil law of Louisiana : an heir who receives seisin immediately after the death of the intestate by operation of law — compare irregular heir in this entry

Note: Prior to 1982 the Louisiana Civil Code distinguished between legal and irregular heirs who were required to go through an additional procedure in order to receive possession of the property. This division of heirs was eliminated in the 1981 revision of the Civil Code.

natural heir
: an heir (as a child) whose status as an heir arises from especially close blood relationship as distinguished from one (as the state) whose status arises by operation of statute
presumptive heir
: heir presumptive in this entry
pretermitted heir
: a descendant of a testator who would be an heir under the laws of intestacy but who is not named to take under the will

Note: Most states have statutes requiring a share of the estate to go to a pretermitted heir, especially one born after the execution of the will, on the assumption that the omission was unintentional.

right heir
1 : an heir by blood
2 : the particular heir granted or devised an estate tail as distinguished from the heirs in general
testamentary heir
in the civil law of Louisiana : an heir who inherits under a will

Other Words from heir

heirless adjective
heirship noun

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