he·​red·​i·​tary | \ hə-ˈre-də-ˌter-ē How to pronounce hereditary (audio) \

Definition of hereditary

1a biology : genetically transmitted or transmittable from parent to offspring The disease is hereditary.
b : characteristic of or fostered by one's predecessors a hereditary feud
2a : received or passing by inheritance or required to pass by inheritance or by reason of birth hereditary wealth
b : having title (see title entry 1 sense 4a) or possession through inheritance or by reason of birth hereditary nobility
3 : of a kind established by tradition hereditary enemies
4 : of or relating to inheritance or heredity unless he had the hereditary dispositions which he has, he would not behave the way he does— Arthur Pap

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Other Words from hereditary

hereditarily \ hə-​ˌre-​də-​ˈter-​ə-​lē How to pronounce hereditarily (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for hereditary



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innate, inborn, inbred, congenital, hereditary mean not acquired after birth. innate applies to qualities or characteristics that are part of one's inner essential nature. an innate sense of fair play inborn suggests a quality or tendency either actually present at birth or so marked and deep-seated as to seem so. her inborn love of nature inbred suggests something either acquired from parents by heredity or so deeply rooted and ingrained as to seem acquired in that way. inbred political loyalties congenital and hereditary refer to what is acquired before or at birth, the former to things acquired during fetal development and the latter to things transmitted from one's ancestors. a congenital heart murmur eye color is hereditary

Examples of hereditary in a Sentence

He suffers from a rare hereditary condition. eye and hair color are hereditary
Recent Examples on the Web But his father, René, was working as a mountain guide (the profession is hereditary here). The Economist, "Death in the Alps," 20 Dec. 2019 In the north, Molossia and Macedonia retained hereditary monarchies. National Geographic, "Alexander the Great's warrior mom wielded unprecedented power," 3 Dec. 2019 The 3-year-old dachshund, Hartley, suffered from intervertebral disc disease, a common, hereditary disease in dachshunds. Karen Angel, USA TODAY, "Physical therapy for dogs? Some owners turn to rehab to manage chronic pain, avoid costly surgery," 30 Nov. 2019 For the Khojas, the Aga Khan—a hereditary imam and leader of the Ismaili Muslim people, a branch of Shia Islam—is a spiritual leader. Cassie Werber, Quartz at Work, "The extraordinary story of the only B Corp in Afghanistan," 12 Dec. 2019 Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in unison earlier this week to meet with the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Watch Kate Middleton and Prince William Show a Rare PDA Moment," 6 Oct. 2019 Scientists have learned a lot about hereditary types of breast cancer genes, including the insight that 1 in 400 people carry the harmful mutation and have a 50 percent chance of passing it on to their children. Laura Garcia,, "San Antonio medical school gets millions to research breast cancer," 16 Nov. 2019 The first is a one-time test for nine hereditary conditions, including breast and colon cancer, heart disease, and blood disorders. Wired, "Ancestry Branches Out Into Genetic Health Screening," 15 Oct. 2019 Daisy’s disdain at having to drop everything to serve a family whose members have done little other than be born into their circumstances mirrors debates which continue today around the ethics of a hereditary right to the throne. Kate Samuelson, Time, "Old Friendships, New Costumes and Timeless Royal Fever on the Set of the Downton Abbey Movie," 20 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hereditary.' 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 hereditary

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hereditary

Middle English hereditarie, borrowed from Latin hērēditārius "of inheritance, passed by means of inheritance," from hērēdit- (probably extracted from hērēditāt-, hērēditās "succession to an heir, inheritance," taken as hērēdit- + -āt-, -ās) + -ārius -ary entry 2

Note: See note at heritage.

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Time Traveler for hereditary

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The first known use of hereditary was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hereditary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for hereditary


How to pronounce hereditary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hereditary

: passed or able to be passed from parent to child before birth
: passing from a person who has died to that person's child or younger relative
: holding a position or title that was passed on from your parent or an older relative


he·​red·​i·​tary | \ hə-ˈre-də-ˌter-ē How to pronounce hereditary (audio) \

Kids Definition of hereditary

1 : capable of being passed from parent to offspring hereditary disease
2 : received or passing from an ancestor to an heir


he·​red·​i·​tary | \ hə-ˈred-ə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce hereditary (audio) \

Medical Definition of hereditary

1 : genetically transmitted or transmittable from parent to offspring — compare acquired sense 1, congenital sense 2, familial
2 : of or relating to inheritance or heredity

Other Words from hereditary

hereditarily \ -​ˌred-​ə-​ˈter-​ə-​lē How to pronounce hereditarily (audio) \ adverb

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he·​red·​i·​tary | \ hə-ˈre-də-ˌter-ē How to pronounce hereditary (audio) \

Legal Definition of hereditary

1 : received or passing by inheritance or required to pass by inheritance hereditary shares
2 : having ownership or possession through inheritance

History and Etymology for hereditary

Latin hereditarius, from hereditas inheritance, from hered-, heres heir

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