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

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 Scarduzio, now 39 and using a wheelchair, was diagnosed as a child with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder (CMT), a hereditary disease that causes her nerves and muscles to slowly deteriorate. Avalon R. Zoppo,, "Getting her wheelchair on the beach was a struggle. Brigantine just made it easier," 10 July 2018 Physicians are testing the family for some hereditary syndromes that make people more likely to develop brain cancers. Soumya Karlamangla,, "Their daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. Two weeks later, their son was too," 28 June 2018 The British hereditary title is directly below baron, with viscounts, earls, marquesses, and dukes above it. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "6 Things to Know About Jack Brooksbank's Family Ahead of His Wedding to Princess Eugenie," 26 June 2018 Only those with hereditary titles may register to stand. The Economist, "Peers fight for a place in the House of Lords," 21 June 2018 Did Kim, a third-generation hereditary leader, think Trump would share his love for lavish gestures and things grandiose? Kim Tong-hyung, The Seattle Times, "Pushing the envelope: Why was Kim’s letter for Trump so big?," 2 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.

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

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

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

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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 \

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

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Comments on hereditary

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not any or not one

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