[ kuhn-jen-i-tl ]
/ kənˈdʒɛn ɪ tl /
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See synonyms for: congenital / congenitally on Thesaurus.com

Definition of congenital

of or relating to a condition present at birth, whether inherited or caused by the environment, especially the uterine environment.
having by nature a specified character: a congenital fool.
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Origin of congenital

First recorded in 1790–1800; from Latin congenit(us) “inborn, innate” (con- con- + geni-, variant stem of gignere “to give birth” + -tus past participle suffix) + -al1

synonym study for congenital

1. See innate.


con·gen·i·tal·ly, adverbcon·gen·i·tal·ness, nounnon·con·gen·i·tal, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does congenital mean?

Congenital describes something that is or is related to a condition present from birth or during fetal development.

The word congenital can refer to a condition occurring at the time of birth or while the embryo is developing, as in The scientists noticed multiple congenital defects in the kangaroo embryos.

Informally, congenital can mean something is so complete that it seems to have been that way since birth, as in Frank is a congenital liar. 

Congenital can refer to a condition that is either inherited or caused by the environment, however there is an important point to remember. In medicine, the word congenital is a general term to refer to any disease that can be present since birth. However, congenital isn’t used interchangeably with words like genetic or hereditary. This is because not all diseases or disorders that can happen during pregnancy (meaning they are congenital) are caused by genes or inheritance.

Congenital is similar to the words innate and inborn, however congenital can refer to pre-birth development and, even in the informal sense, usually refers to negative traits or qualities.

Example: The rats’ misshapen feet appear to be a congenital defect that they have had since they were born.

Where does congenital come from?

The first records of congenital come from around 1790. It comes from the Latin congenit(us), meaning “inborn, innate.” Congenital refers to traits or conditions a living thing has had since (or even before) birth.

When used formally, congenital very often refers to medical conditions or disorders that a person is born with. Congenital disorders or defects can be caused by genetics, but not all of them are. For example, congenital heart defects can be inherited or can be a result of the mother smoking cigarettes or having diabetes while pregnant.

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What are some other forms related to congenital?

  • congenitally (adverb)
  • congenitalness (noun)
  • noncongenital (adjective)

What are some synonyms for congenital?

What are some words that share a root or word element with congenital

What are some words that often get used in discussing congenital?

How is congenital used in real life?

Congenital is most often used formally to refer to medical disorders and defects that a person is born with.

Try using congenital!

True or False?

The word congenital refers to a condition that is developed soon after birth.

How to use congenital in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for congenital

/ (kənˈdʒɛnɪtəl) /

denoting or relating to any nonhereditary condition, esp an abnormal condition, existing at birthcongenital blindness
informal complete, as if from birtha congenital idiot

Derived forms of congenital

congenitally, adverbcongenitalness, noun

Word Origin for congenital

C18: from Latin congenitus born together with, from genitus born, from gignere to bear, beget
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

Scientific definitions for congenital

[ kən-jĕnĭ-tl ]

Existing at or before birth, as a defect or medical condition.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for congenital

[ (kuhn-jen-i-tl) ]

A descriptive term for a disease or condition that is present at birth. A congenital disease can be either hereditary or acquired.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.