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[in-her-i-tuh ns] /ɪnˈhɛr ɪ təns/
something that is or may be inherited; property passing at the owner's death to the heir or those entitled to succeed; legacy.
the genetic characters transmitted from parent to offspring, taken collectively.
something, as a quality, characteristic, or other immaterial possession, received from progenitors or predecessors as if by succession:
an inheritance of family pride.
the act or fact of inheriting by succession, as if by succession, or genetically:
to receive property by inheritance.
portion; birthright; heritage:
Absolute rule was considered the inheritance of kings.
Obsolete. right of possession; ownership.
1375-1425; Middle English enheritance < Anglo-French. See inherit, -ance
Related forms
preinheritance, noun
1. patrimony; bequest. Inheritance, heritage denote something inherited. Inheritance is the common term for property or any possession that comes to an heir: He received the farm as an inheritance from his parents. Heritage indicates something that is bequeathed to a subsequent generation by an individual or by society: our cultural heritage from Greece and Rome. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for inheritance
  • Turning down an inheritance may seem to be an alien concept.
  • And that-the inheritance of an acquired characteristic-is quite startling.
  • Using standard inheritance theory, scientists have searched for the genes underlying autism with little success.
  • He is successful financially, with perhaps an inheritance as a solid background.
  • Even if you don't, if you came into an inheritance someday, that could be snatched away.
  • Whether or not scrapping inheritance taxes makes sense, thoughtful and well-targeted philanthropy is clearly to be encouraged.
  • Laws of inheritance that are part and parcel of the theory of evolution.
  • He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax.
  • Data mining may prove a useful device in our longstanding effort to understand our cultural inheritance.
  • There is evidence of genetic influence, but no clear pattern of inheritance.
British Dictionary definitions for inheritance


  1. hereditary succession to an estate, title, etc
  2. the right of an heir to succeed to property on the death of an ancestor
  3. something that may legally be transmitted to an heir
the act of inheriting
something inherited; heritage
the derivation of characteristics of one generation from an earlier one by heredity
(obsolete) hereditary rights
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 inheritance

late 14c., enheritaunce "fact of receiving by hereditary succession;" early 15c. as "that which is inherited," from Anglo-French enheritance, Old French enheritaunce, from enheriter (see inherit). Heritance "act of inheriting" is from mid-15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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inheritance in Medicine

inheritance in·her·i·tance (ĭn-hěr'ĭ-təns)

  1. The process of genetic transmission of traits from parents to offspring.

  2. A characteristic so inherited.

  3. The sum of characteristics genetically transmitted from parents to offspring.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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inheritance in Science
The process by which traits or characteristics pass from parents to offspring through the genes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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inheritance in Technology
programming, object-oriented
In object-oriented programming, the ability to derive new classes from existing classes. A derived class (or "subclass") inherits the instance variables and methods of the "base class" (or "superclass"), and may add new instance variables and methods. New methods may be defined with the same names as those in the base class, in which case they override the original one.
For example, bytes might belong to the class of integers for which an add method might be defined. The byte class would inherit the add method from the integer class.
See also Liskov substitution principle, multiple inheritance.
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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