1. (noun) Anything an individual receives from another individual after they die—typically money or property.

2. (noun) Any traits passed from an individual or group to future generations such as cultural heritage or genetics.

3. (noun) The act of inheriting.

Example: An individual inherits a car from a relative.

Audio Pronunciation: (in·her·it·ance)

Download Audio Pronunciation: inheritance.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: inheritances
  • Receiving an inheritance from an individual before they die is called preheritance and is an inter vivo transfer of wealth.
  • Not to be confused with succession, which is the transfer of a particular office or status to another person such as a son becoming king after his father dies.
  •  Types:
  • Also called:
    • bequest
    • birthright
    • heritage
    • legacy
    • patrimony
  • Inheritance used in a sentence:
    • I am giving up my inheritance to pursue my dream as an artist.
    • My dad left me a large inheritance after he died.
    • She was given her inheritance when she turned 18.
  • An (noun) inheritor (verb) inherits (adjectiveinheritable property.

Related Quotations:

  • “[Inheritance is broadly] defined as one’s initial starting point in life based on parental position, includes a set of cumulative nonmerit advantage for all except the poorest of the poor. These include enhanced childhood standards of living, differential access to cultural capital, differential access to social networks of power and influence, infusions of parental capital while parents are still alive, greater health and life expectancy, and the inheritance of bulk estates when parents die” (McNamee and Miller 2013:71).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 


McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

How to Cite the Definition of Inheritance

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “inheritance.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 20, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

inheritance. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “inheritance.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 20, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“inheritance.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 20 May. 2019. <>.