hereditary

adjective

he·​red·​i·​tary hə-ˈre-də-ˌter-ē How to pronounce hereditary (audio)
1
a
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
2
a
: 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
hereditarily adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for hereditary

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

Example Sentences

He suffers from a rare hereditary condition. eye and hair color are hereditary
Recent Examples on the Web But words are open to interpretation, and while the Crown may be hereditary, a monarch’s sense of duty is not. Holly Thomas, CNN, 13 Sep. 2022 Hair loss is real for all ages and genders, because it's largely impacted by genetics — age, hereditary factors, poor diet, stress, hormone levels, and bad hair care habits can impact hair loss as well. Hannah Oh, Seventeen, 3 Oct. 2022 Given this context, perhaps we Americans are envious that the British have something as historically sturdy as the divine right of kings to legitimate vast, hereditary, and permanent inequality and enshrine its maintenance as a civic virtue. Suzanne Schneider, The New Republic, 27 Sep. 2022 The man also tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation, which is a common cause of hereditary breast cancer. Jason Fontelieu, Baltimore Sun, 14 Oct. 2022 Modern China, of course, is a Communist dictatorship, not a hereditary monarchy. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 13 Oct. 2022 The images of the queen were micromanaged, designed to stir patriotism, convey a sense of national identity, and always to perpetuate a hereditary monarchy into the modern time. Karla Adam, Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2022 The United Kingdom or the nation that dominates it, England, have been led by a hereditary monarchy for more than nine centuries, barring a brief period of republican rule in the 1600s. Patrick Kingsley, BostonGlobe.com, 12 Sep. 2022 Charles looked more like a U.S. president on the campaign trail than the latest steward of a 1,000-year-old hereditary monarchy. Danica Kirka, Chicago Tribune, 9 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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.

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near hereditary

Cite this Entry

“Hereditary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hereditary. Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

hereditary

adjective

he·​red·​i·​tary hə-ˈred-ə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce hereditary (audio)
1
: genetically passed or capable of being passed from parent to offspring
hereditary traits
2
a
: received or passing by inheritance
hereditary rank
b
: having title or possession through inheritance
hereditary ruler
3
: of or relating to inheritance or heredity

Medical Definition

hereditary

adjective

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

Legal Definition

hereditary

adjective

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

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