he·​red·​i·​tary | \hə-ˈre-də-ˌter-ē \

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 \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for hereditary


genetic (also genetical), heritable, inborn, inheritable, inherited



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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

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 women received genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk three times as often than men in a study published in June in the journal JAMA Oncology. Amy Dockser Marcus, WSJ, "The Genetic Test Some Men Don’t Know They Need," 7 Aug. 2018 Genetic data can be collected for medical purposes, like genetic testing for hereditary diseases, by the government for identification purposes, or submitted to private companies that promise to tell you more about yourself and your ancestry. Angela Chen, The Verge, "Treating ‘genetic privacy’ like it’s just one thing keeps us from understanding people’s concerns," 31 Oct. 2018 While many types of DNA tests utilize probabilities of hereditary markers, none of these are accurate enough to determine region, tribe, or a family or individual in a person’s genealogy. Rory Taylor, Teen Vogue, "DNA Tests Are Not An Indicator of Native Identity," 19 Oct. 2018 This was far more first season of True Detective, with grit and gore and the kind of hereditary violence that’s all over our screens this year. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Sharp Objects' Cliffhanger Season Finale Is Pure, Confusing Terror," 27 Aug. 2018 In 1999, the House of Lords Act removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "Lord Carrington, 99, Former British Foreign Secretary, Dies," 10 July 2018 The experimental drug, called inotersen, lengthened its maximum demonstrated benefit from 15 months to 27 months in patients with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis. Bradley J. Fikes,, "Ionis reports continued success testing drug for fatal disease," 26 Mar. 2018 One aims to identify 25 hereditary cancers by looking for mutations in 98 genes. Claire Altschuler,, "Ditching the doctor? What to know about home health tests before trying them," 27 June 2018 Cologuard is not for everyone; not for high risk individuals, including those with a family history of colorectal cancer, a personal history of colorectal cancer or advanced adenoma, IBD and certain hereditary syndromes. Ashley Davidson, USA TODAY, "Why more than 70 pro golfers agreed to get screened for this deadly cancer," 12 June 2018

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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Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for hereditary

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

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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 \

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 \

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 \ adverb

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he·​red·​i·​tary | \hə-ˈre-də-ˌter-ē \

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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Comments on hereditary

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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