1 of 2


: one who receives property from an ancestor : one who is entitled to inherit property
was her father's sole heir
: one who inherits or is entitled to succeed to a hereditary rank, title, or office
heir to the throne
: 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
heirless adjective
heirship noun


2 of 2


heired; heiring; heirs

transitive verb

chiefly dialectal

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
Harry has been estranged for several years from members of his family, including his older brother, Prince William, heir to the throne. Terry Spencer, Fortune Europe, 15 Apr. 2024 The heirs sued, alleging that the sequel infringed on the copyright in Yonay’s original work. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 8 Apr. 2024 Paramount has prevailed in a copyright lawsuit brought by the heirs to the author of a 1983 magazine story that inspired the original Top Gun accusing the studio of forging ahead with the blockbuster sequel without renegotiating a new license. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Apr. 2024 While some monarchs reign until their deaths, the Dutch royal family has a tradition of abdicating the throne for their heir to take over during their lifetime. Stephanie Petit, Peoplemag, 4 Apr. 2024 The once-proud A’s organization has fallen on hard times under the ownership of Gap heir John Fisher, who purchased the team in 2005. Jason Anderson, Sacramento Bee, 4 Apr. 2024 Another attempt in 2019 fizzled after a fight with the city of Boise and heirs to the Albertson family, who argued that the buildings would block the view from their homes on the rim of the Boise Bench. Nick Rosenberger, Idaho Statesman, 2 Apr. 2024 Kate, 42, hadn’t been seen publicly since Christmas until video surfaced this week of her with her husband, Prince William, heir to the throne, walking from a farm shop near their Windsor home. arkansasonline.com, 22 Mar. 2024 Family, politicians and other high profile figures began sharing messages of support for the princess, who is 42 years old and shares three children with Prince William, the heir to the throne. Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News, 22 Mar. 2024
After watching the 1993 Tom Cruise thriller The Firm, which features the Cayman Islands, Hammer’s father, Michael, heir to a multimillion-dollar oil fortune, relocated his family to the tax haven. ELLE, 8 Feb. 2023 Who: Daughter of legendary rock singer Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley, heir to Graceland and her father’s estate. Mary Colurso | McOlurso@al.com, al, 2 Feb. 2023 The final three episodes see Harry, 38, directing more of his ire at Prince William, now heir to the throne, and speaking in more detail about how his relationship with the royal household broke down. Sylvia Hui and Danica Kirka, BostonGlobe.com, 15 Dec. 2022 Her great-grandson, Alexei Nikolaevich, the only son of the last czar of Russia and heir to the throne, was afflicted with hemophilia B. Jonathan Saltzman, BostonGlobe.com, 29 Jan. 2023 Their only son and heir to the throne had hemophilia, and Rasputin seemingly had healing powers that kept him alive. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 27 Oct. 2022 The Queen’s eldest son, Charles, who has been heir to the British throne for 70 years, is now officially the king. Cassie Werber, Quartz, 8 Sep. 2022 Suddenly in financial straits, Fisher, heir to the Gap fortune, is forced to sell the A’s. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Jan. 2023 Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa, heir to a considerable sugar fortune and a surviving descendant of the royal family that once ruled over the Hawaiian Kingdom, died Sunday age 96. Leo Sands, Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'heir.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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 heh1ro- "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 heh1ro- 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 heh1ro-h1d-, with zero grade of the verb.) The adjective heh1ro- has been taken as a derivative of the verbal base heh1- "let go, leave behind" (see go entry 1).


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

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near heir

Cite this Entry

“Heir.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heir. Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a person who inherits or has the right to inherit property
: a person who has legal claim to a title or a throne when the person holding it dies

Legal Definition


: one who inherits or is entitled to succeed to the possession of property after the death of its owner: as
: 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
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
: an heir by blood
: 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
heirless adjective
heirship noun

More from Merriam-Webster on heir

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