passing, or capable of passing, naturally from parent to offspring through the genes: Blue eyes are hereditary in our family.Compare congenital.
of or relating to inheritance or heredity: a hereditary title.
existing by reason of feeling, opinions, or prejudices held by predecessors: a hereditary enemy.
  1. descending by inheritance.
  2. transmitted or transmissible in the line of descent by force of law.
  3. holding title, rights, etc., by inheritance: a hereditary proprietor.
  1. (of a collection of sets) signifying that each subset of a set in the collection is itself a set in the collection.
  2. of or relating to a mathematical property, as containing a greatest integer, applicable to every subset of a set that has the property.

Origin of hereditary

1375–1425; late Middle English < Latin hērēditārius relating to inheritance, equivalent to hērēdit(ās) inheritance, heredity + -ārius -ary
Related formshe·red·i·tar·i·ly [hi-red-i-tair-uh-lee, -red-i-ter-] /hɪˌrɛd ɪˈtɛər ə li, -ˈrɛd ɪˌtɛr-/, adverbhe·red·i·tar·i·ness, nounnon·he·red·i·tar·i·ly, adverbnon·he·red·i·tar·i·ness, nounnon·he·red·i·tar·y, adjectivequa·si-he·red·i·tar·y, adjective
Can be confusedheritable hereditary inheritable (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for hereditary

1, 2. See innate. 3. ancestral, traditional. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hereditary

Contemporary Examples of hereditary

Historical Examples of hereditary

  • (your race shall be banished from its hereditary abode), 2886; acc.



  • But his love for the hereditary soil was not as simple as that of his companions.


    Pierre Loti

  • I would be born to no hereditary prejudices, no hereditary passions.

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

  • This often acts even in cases where alcohol has aroused a hereditary taint.

  • I repeat to you that all hereditary cases are to be found there.

    Doctor Pascal

    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for hereditary



of, relating to, or denoting factors that can be transmitted genetically from one generation to another
  1. descending or capable of descending to succeeding generations by inheritance
  2. transmitted or transmissible according to established rules of descent
derived from one's ancestors; traditionalhereditary feuds
maths logic
  1. (of a set) containing all those elements which have a given relation to any element of the set
  2. (of a property) transferred by the given relation, so that if x has the property P and xRy, then y also has the property P
Derived Formshereditarily, adverbhereditariness, noun
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

Word Origin and History for hereditary

early 15c., hereditarie, from Latin hereditarius, from hereditas (see heredity).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

hereditary in Medicine




Transmitted or capable of being transmitted genetically from parent to offspring.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

hereditary in Science



Passed or capable of being passed from parent to offspring by means of genes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

hereditary in Culture


A descriptive term for conditions capable of being transmitted from parent to offspring through the genes. The term hereditary is applied to diseases such as hemophilia and characteristics such as the tendency toward baldness that pass from parents to children.

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.