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[air] /ɛər/
a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance in the property of another following the latter's death.
  1. (in common law) a person who inherits all the property of a deceased person, as by descent, relationship, will, or legal process.
  2. Civil Law. a person who legally succeeds to the place of a deceased person and assumes the rights and obligations of the deceased, as the liabilities for debts or the possessory rights to property.
a person who inherits or is entitled to inherit the rank, title, position, etc., of another.
a person or group considered as inheriting the tradition, talent, etc., of a predecessor.
verb (used with object)
Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S. to inherit; succeed to.
Origin of heir
1225-75; Middle English eir, heir < Old French < Latin hērēd- (stem of hērēs); akin to Greek chêros bereaved
Related forms
heirless, adjective
Can be confused
air, e'er, ere, err, heir. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for heir
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They thought the heir had been overtook by a fit of passion, and might have done the mischief in it.

    Trevlyn Hold Mrs. Henry Wood
  • If a widow has value for any purpose, she falls to the heir and he may exploit her.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Better an heir should never be born, if it must call him father!

    Elster's Folly Mrs. Henry Wood
  • There was only one heir, or rather heiress-at-law, and that was Loveday.

  • "It's there, old fellow, if you really know how to get it out," Cousin Frank told his son and heir.

    When Grandmamma Was New Marion Harland
British Dictionary definitions for heir


(civil law) the person legally succeeding to all property of a deceased person, irrespective of whether such person died testate or intestate, and upon whom devolves as well as the rights the duties and liabilities attached to the estate
any person or thing that carries on some tradition, circumstance, etc, from a forerunner
an archaic word for offspring
Derived Forms
heirless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French, from Latin hērēs; related to Greek khēros bereaved
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for heir

c.1300, from Anglo-French heir, Old French oir "heir, successor," from Latin heredem (nominative heres) "heir, heiress" (see heredity). Heir apparent (late 14c.) has the French order of noun-adjective, though it was not originally so written in English. It is the heir of one still alive whose right is clear. After death the heir apparent becomes the heir-at-law.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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