in·​her·​i·​tance | \ in-ˈher-ə-tən(t)s How to pronounce inheritance (audio) , -ˈhe-rə- \

Definition of inheritance

1 : something that is or may be inherited
2a : the act of inheriting property
b : the reception of genetic qualities by transmission from parent to offspring
c : the acquisition of a possession, condition, or trait from past generations
b : a valuable possession that is a common heritage from nature
4 obsolete : possession

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Examples of inheritance in a Sentence

She began her own business with the inheritance she got from her grandfather. He left sizable inheritances to his children. The buildings are part of the city's architectural inheritance. the inheritance of an estate the inheritance of a genetic trait
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Recent Examples on the Web For them authority is not a necessary condition for civilization but a kind of accidental inheritance, a purely private possession that has fallen into their laps like a sack of bullion tossed by a fleeing bank robber. Matthew Walther, TheWeek, "Falling statues and the collapse of moral authority," 26 June 2020 In the petition, Robert Trump said that Mary had agreed not to publish anything about those involved in the case after agreeing to an unspecified payout in an inheritance case. Michael Kranish,, "Court in New York rejects effort to block book by President Trump’s niece," 25 June 2020 In that vein, David was claiming the inheritance that his ancestors left for him: answering the call of barbecue as an endeavor of entrepreneurship. Howard J Conyers, Bon Appétit, "What We Lost When We Lost David McAtee," 25 June 2020 But now, the confidant believes, Basmah being an outspoken woman in a prominent position, along with asking for her inheritance, may be among the reasons she is imprisoned. NBC News, "Fears rise over safety of detained Saudi princess, family confidant says," 14 June 2020 Her parents passed away, leaving her a large (by her description) inheritance. Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, "Ask Amy: Frugal friend could be hoarding money," 13 June 2020 Her parents passed away, leaving her a large (by her description) inheritance. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Friend wonders why pal is so poor," 13 June 2020 The intersection of having these industrial, toxic polluters built near or next to communities of color really tells the story of this long inheritance. Mark Olalde, USA TODAY, "Climate Point: Russia spills oil in the Arctic; fossil fuels are labeled 'white supremacy'," 12 June 2020 That said, to take a boy with no blood ties into a family, giving him that family’s surname, was a major commitment, creating an heir with inheritance rights. The Economist, "Chaguan For people in China, adopting Chinese children is getting easier," 6 June 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for inheritance

Middle English enheritaunce, borrowed from Anglo-French enheritance, from enheriter "to give (a person) right of inheritance, inherit" + -ance -ance

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Time Traveler for inheritance

Time Traveler

The first known use of inheritance was in the 14th century

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Statistics for inheritance

Last Updated

30 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inheritance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for inheritance



Financial Definition of inheritance

What It Is

An inheritance includes those assets of an estate that are bequeathed, in whole or in part, to specific heirs.

How It Works

The assets that comprise an estate are customarily transferred to individuals specified by name or relationship (e.g. "Howard Jones, III or "grandchild") in the will of the deceased. In the absence of a will, estate assets are transferred according to laws that protect the assets of the deceased (generally passing them to descendants in a specific order).  Once transferred, an inheritance is heavily taxed.

For example, Jim's estate is worth $10,000. His will specifies that his son and daughter each receive $5000. Following Jim's death, the son and daughter each receive $5000. This is their inheritance.

Why It Matters

An inheritance represents the material legacy an individual leaves behind after his deThe definition of inheritance on InvestingAnswersath. In addition to the family dynamics involved in the transfer of an inheritance, there are significant tax implications for the inheritors depending on their circumstances and on the value of assets received.

Source: Investing Answers


How to pronounce inheritance (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inheritance

: money, property, etc., that is received from someone when that person dies
: something from the past that is still important or valuable
: the act of inheriting something


in·​her·​i·​tance | \ in-ˈher-ə-təns How to pronounce inheritance (audio) \

Kids Definition of inheritance

1 : the act of getting by legal right from a person at his or her death or through heredity
2 : something gotten by legal right from a person at his or her death

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in·​her·​i·​tance | \ in-ˈher-ət-ən(t)s How to pronounce inheritance (audio) \

Medical Definition of inheritance

1 : the reception of genetic qualities by transmission from parent to offspring
2 : all of the genetic characters or qualities transmitted from parent to offspring — compare genotype sense 2, phenotype


in·​her·​i·​tance | \ in-ˈher-ə-təns How to pronounce inheritance (audio) \

Legal Definition of inheritance

1 : the act of inheriting: as
a : the acquisition of real or personal property under the laws of intestacy or sometimes by will
b : the succession upon the death of an owner either by will or by operation of law to all the estate, rights, and liabilities of the decedent
2a : something that is or may be inherited
b : something to which one is entitled as heir increasing the son's potential inheritance under [the] willLesnick v. Lesnick, 577 So. 2d 856 (1991)

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