\ 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 heir (audio) \ adjective
heirship \ ˈer-​ˌship How to pronounce heir (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 Rumors had reached a fever pitch that Mr. Jones was going to join Donatella Versace at Versace, to become her heir. New York Times, 25 Jan. 2021 Johnson finding role Running back Roschon Johnson set foot in Austin in 2019 looking to become the heir to Ehlinger’s throne at the quarterback position. Marcus Krum, Dallas News, 3 Nov. 2020 Petit Trianon Deux, also known as Northway, was built on 18.3 parklike Greenwich acres by Laura Robinson, an heir to the Goodyear Tires fortune. Regina Cole, Forbes, 6 Oct. 2021 In the play, terminally-ill William Joad needs to find an heir to take over the Joad family farm in Sallisaw, Okla., that his ancestors abandoned during the Depression and Dust Bowl era to migrate west to California. San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Oct. 2021 Naturally, the plan backfires, and an heir ends up being conceived out of wedlock, forcing the royal family to go into hiding, and forcing Cazotte to acknowledge the limitations of his expertise on love. Emma Dibdin, Town & Country, 2 Sep. 2021 But their plan soon backfires, when an heir is conceived out of wedlock and the royal family has to seek refuge in the castle of Rosenbad. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 31 Aug. 2021 Hormel, an heir to Hormel Foods, later became a philanthropist, helping fund the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Public Library, the AIDS Memorial Grove and the Human Rights campaign. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 Aug. 2021 In early 1993, Bannon was hired by Ed Bass, an heir to one of the biggest oil fortunes in Texas. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 10 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Erik Prince, founder of the military contractor Blackwater and himself heir to an auto parts fortune, used the shelter. Jeff Ernsthausen, ProPublica, 28 Sep. 2021 Ser Harwin is the eldest son to Master of Laws Lyonel Strong and heir to Harrenhal. Joe Otterson, Variety, 24 Sep. 2021 Illinois elected billionaire heir J.B. Pritzker as governor in 2016, while Californians rejected former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in 2010. Giacomo Tognini, Forbes, 17 Sep. 2021 The two biggest individual contributors to Crist’s PAC were Michael Trentalange, a Tampa attorney, and Barbara Steifel, a Steifel Laboratories heir from Coral Gables, who both gave $100,000. Steven Lemongello, orlandosentinel.com, 16 Sep. 2021 In Marcus’s view, the group’s singer, Johnny Rotten, was the unlikely (and perhaps unwitting) heir to various radical European intellectual traditions. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2021 The Silicon Valley startup launched 25 years ago backed by venture capitalist Gary Lauder, heir to Estée Lauder’s makeup fortune. chicagotribune.com, 20 Aug. 2021 Created by writer and producer Gary Janetti—best known for his witty, royal-centric Instagram page—the series is written from the perspective of Prince George, heir to the British throne and son of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Lucia Tonelli, Town & Country, 14 Aug. 2021 Other famous inmates over the years have included publishing heir Patty Hearst and Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss. Michael R. Sisak And Michael Balsamo, Star Tribune, 22 July 2021

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 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

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Time Traveler for heir

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

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Dictionary Entries Near heir



heir apparency

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Last Updated

25 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Heir.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heir. Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for heir



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

More from Merriam-Webster on heir

Nglish: Translation of heir for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of heir for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about heir


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