[ huh-red-i-ter-ee ]
See synonyms for hereditary on
  1. passing, or capable of passing, naturally from parent to offspring through the genes: Blue eyes are hereditary in our family.: Compare congenital.

  2. of or relating to inheritance or heredity: a hereditary title.

  1. existing by reason of feeling, opinions, or prejudices held by predecessors: a hereditary enemy.

  2. Law.

    • descending by inheritance.

    • transmitted or transmissible in the line of descent by force of law.

    • holding title, rights, etc., by inheritance: a hereditary proprietor.

  3. Mathematics.

    • (of a collection of sets) signifying that each subset of a set in the collection is itself a set in the collection.

    • 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

First recorded in 1375–1425; late Middle English, from Latin hērēditārius “relating to inheritance,” equivalent to hērēdit(ās) “inheritance,” heredity + -ārius -ary

synonym study For hereditary

1, 2. See innate.

Other words for hereditary

Other words from hereditary

  • he·red·i·tar·i·ly [hi-red-i-tair-uh-lee, -red-i-ter-], /hɪˌrɛd ɪˈtɛər ə li, -ˈrɛd ɪˌtɛr-/, adverb
  • he·red·i·tar·i·ness, noun
  • non·he·red·i·tar·i·ly, adverb
  • non·he·red·i·tar·i·ness, noun
  • non·he·red·i·tar·y, adjective
  • qua·si-he·red·i·tar·y, adjective

Words that may be confused with hereditary

Words Nearby hereditary Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use hereditary in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for hereditary


/ (hɪˈrɛdɪtərɪ, -trɪ) /

  1. of, relating to, or denoting factors that can be transmitted genetically from one generation to another

  2. law

    • descending or capable of descending to succeeding generations by inheritance

    • transmitted or transmissible according to established rules of descent

  1. derived from one's ancestors; traditional: hereditary feuds

  2. maths logic

    • (of a set) containing all those elements which have a given relation to any element of the set

    • (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 forms of hereditary

  • hereditarily, adverb
  • hereditariness, 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

Scientific definitions for hereditary


[ hə-rĕdĭ-tĕr′ē ]

  1. 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.

Cultural definitions for hereditary


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.