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 primogenitura, a combination of the Latin primus ("first") and genitura ("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 1882) and much less common.

Examples of primogeniture in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Thanks to a change to the ancient rule of royal primogeniture, which was scrapped in 2011, the Cambridges’ firstborn was set to become third in line to the throne regardless of his or her gender. Omid Scobie, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Biggest Royal Moments of the Past Decade," 1 Jan. 2020 And there’s something about the idea of primogeniture — the eldest brother getting the estate, and everyone else has to fall in line — that didn’t feel right in the Jazz Age. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘As You Like It’ opens Globe’s Shakespeare Festival with its story of love and friendship," 16 June 2019 The United Kingdom got rid of their primogeniture law in 2011, declaring that William and Kate Middleton’s firstborn child, boy or girl, would be the next ruler of England. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Another Japanese Princess Has Chosen Love Over Her Royal Title," 26 June 2018 When Charles Martel died in 1295, his young son Carobert should have been next in line according to the law of primogeniture. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Joanna of Naples," 3 July 2018 But during his reign, Sweden’s law of absolute primogeniture was passed. Madeleine Luckel, Vogue, "Should the Swedish Royal Family Be Your New Obsession? An Introduction," 31 May 2018 For hundreds of years, the laws of succession to the British throne have followed male-preference primogeniture –placing all brothers ahead of sisters in line for the crown. Kate Keller, Smithsonian, "Why Princess Charlotte Just Made Royal History," 24 Apr. 2018 The Succession to the Crown Act, subsequently passed by Parliament in 2013, formalized that the succession order would follow absolute – or gender-blind – primogeniture. Kate Keller, Smithsonian, "Why Princess Charlotte Just Made Royal History," 24 Apr. 2018 Well into the 21st century British law favored male primogeniture, or that a male child has a greater right to the throne than a female child. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "The New Royal Baby Will Be 5th in Line to the Throne—But It Wasn’t Always That Way," 23 Apr. 2018

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

Late Latin primogenitura, from Latin primus + genitura birth, from genitus, past participle of gignere

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Time Traveler for primogeniture

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

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Primogeniture.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for primogeniture


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

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