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 hereditary (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 At age 13, Malone was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which affects the optic nerve. David Woods, The Indianapolis Star, 2 Sep. 2021 At their hair loss clinic, Kethies was finally diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia aka female pattern baldness, a hereditary condition that accounts for the most common cause of hair loss. Devon Abelman, Allure, 31 Aug. 2021 If a child’s interferon system is disturbed, however—because of a hereditary defect, for example—this protective effect disappears. Lars Fischer, Scientific American, 26 Aug. 2021 The hereditary mutation disrupts the production of the pigment melanin, which determines things like skin, fur, and eye color. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Aug. 2021 Since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, the sultans who are the hereditary monarchs in nine of the country’s 13 states have selected one of themselves to serve a five-year term as king. CNN, 16 Aug. 2021 Even though it is outlawed by the Constitution, caste prejudice is rife in Hindu-majority India — and the violence perpetuated against those at the bottom of this hereditary social hierarchy has once again caused outrage. NBC News, 4 Aug. 2021 Its policies cover accidents and illnesses, including cancer treatments, diagnostic procedures, prescription medications, and treatments for chronic, hereditary, and congenital conditions. Better Homes & Gardens, 12 Aug. 2021 That somewhat lofty attitude seems fitting for a hereditary English peer. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 23 July 2021

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 — more at heredity

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

10 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hereditary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for hereditary



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 hereditary (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

More from Merriam-Webster on hereditary

Nglish: Translation of hereditary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hereditary for Arabic Speakers


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