primogeniture

noun
pri·​mo·​gen·​i·​ture | \ ˌprī-mō-ˈje-nə-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce primogeniture (audio) , -chər, -ˌtyu̇r, -ˌtu̇r \

Definition of primogeniture

1 : the state of being the firstborn of the children of the same parents
2 : an exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the eldest son

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In many civilizations, past and present, the state of being the oldest among siblings is a key component of inheritance law. Primogeniture, which first appeared in English in the early 17th century, derives from the Late Latin prīmogenitūra, which itself comes from prīmogenitus, meaning "firstborn," a combination of the Latin prīmus ("first, earliest") and genitus ("birth"), from the past participle of gignere ("to beget"). For those who are youngest in birth order, a similar word applies—ultimogeniture—but this word is newer (first appearing in English in the late 19th century) and much less common.

Examples of primogeniture in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the nineteen-sixties, a legal battle took place, in secret, over the claim of a Scottish transgender man, Ewan Forbes, to a baronetcy title whose succession was determined by male primogeniture. The New Yorker, 20 Dec. 2021 It was most recently amended in 2013 to end the system of male primogeniture, which automatically placed male heirs above their sisters in the line of succession. Erin Hill, PEOPLE.com, 4 Dec. 2021 It was most recently amended in 2013 to end the system of male primogeniture, which automatically placed male heirs above their sisters in the line of succession. Lanford Beard, PEOPLE.com, 20 Sep. 2021 It was most recently amended in 2013 to end the system of male primogeniture, which automatically placed male heirs above their sisters in the line of succession. Lanford Beard, PEOPLE.com, 20 Sep. 2021 It was most recently amended in 2013 to end the system of male primogeniture, which automatically placed male heirs above their sisters in the line of succession. Lanford Beard, PEOPLE.com, 20 Sep. 2021 It was most recently amended in 2013 to end the system of male primogeniture, which automatically placed male heirs above their sisters in the line of succession. Lanford Beard, PEOPLE.com, 20 Sep. 2021 It was most recently amended in 2013 to end the system of male primogeniture, which automatically placed male heirs above their sisters in the line of succession. Lanford Beard, PEOPLE.com, 20 Sep. 2021 It was most recently amended in 2013 to end the system of male primogeniture, which automatically placed male heirs above their sisters in the line of succession. Lanford Beard, PEOPLE.com, 20 Sep. 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for primogeniture

borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Late Latin prīmogenitūra, from prīmogenitus "firstborn" (from Latin prīmus "first, earliest" + -o- -o- —for expected -i- -i- — + genitus, past participle of gignere "to bring into being, beget, give birth to") + Latin -ūra -ure — more at prime entry 2, kin entry 1

Note: The employment of -o- as a linking vowel in a compound rather than normal Latin -i- is peculiar. As noted in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, prīmogenitus is a loan-translation of Greek prōtótokos, and it is possible that the compositional -o- was taken over from the Greek word. Alternatively, the compound could be read as prīmōgenitus, with prīmō- being the Latin adverb prīmō "at first, for the first time."

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

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Last Updated

8 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Primogeniture.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/primogeniture. Accessed 18 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for primogeniture

primogeniture

noun
pri·​mo·​gen·​i·​ture | \ ˌprī-mō-ˈje-nə-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce primogeniture (audio) \

Legal Definition of primogeniture

1 : the state of being the firstborn of the children of the same parents
2 : exclusive right of inheritance specifically : a right to take all the real property of an estate belonging under English law to the eldest son or eldest male in the next degree of consanguinity if there is no son of an ancestor to the exclusion of all female and younger male descendants

More from Merriam-Webster on primogeniture

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about primogeniture

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