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

Definition of inheritance

1a : 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
2 : something that is or may be inherited
3a : tradition
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

Beyond inheritance and schooling, what’s your credo? Bess Matassa, Teen Vogue, "Weekly Horoscopes October 29-November 4," 28 Oct. 2018 The central dogma of maternal inheritance of mtDNA remains valid. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "Plot twist: Mitochondrial DNA can come from both parents," 28 Nov. 2018 The jack-of-all-trades actor plays Count Olaf, the dastardly uncle to three orphans who is determined to get their inheritance — often disguising himself in a variety of personas to trick the children — in the dark but playful tale. Yvonne Villarreal,, "How does Neil Patrick Harris keep his 'Series of Unfortunate Events' characters distinct? Just watch," 12 Apr. 2018 Thanks to a new analysis from personal finance website GOBankingRates, the search for a worry-free city to retire in for those reliant on funds like Social Security, pensions and inheritance just got a little easier. Fiza Pirani, ajc, "This is the best city to retire in Georgia if you’re on a fixed income," 14 May 2018 This kind of inheritance is still extremely rare and seems potentially linked to mitochondrial disease, but the robust confirmation of it in humans is huge news for biology and medicine. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "Plot twist: Mitochondrial DNA can come from both parents," 28 Nov. 2018 The same can be said, for the most part, of the pure thriller aspects that follow as Sir Percival and the Count collude in a conspiracy to get hold of Laura’s inheritance. Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ, "‘The Woman in White’ Review: A 19th-Century Tale for Our Political Time," 18 Oct. 2018 That striving to be better, to do better, worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Read the Full Transcript of Barack Obama's Speech at John McCain's Funeral," 1 Sep. 2018 The report, among other things, calls for legalizing homosexuality and giving the sexes equal inheritance rights. Fox News, "Tunisian fundamentalists protest report on sexual equality," 11 Aug. 2018

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 1a

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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Statistics for inheritance

Last Updated

14 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inheritance

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

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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



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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Comments on inheritance

What made you want to look up inheritance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something valued as if it were money

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