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Definitions of Inheritance

  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.

Examples of Inheritance

Types of Inheritance

Inheritance Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: in·her·i·tance

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /in-hAIR-uh-tuhns/
  • British English – /in-hE-ri-tuhns/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ɪnˈhɛrətəns/
  • British English – /ɪnˈhɛrɪtəns/

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 individual (e.g., son becoming king after his father dies).
  • An (noun) inheritor (verb) inherits (adjectiveinheritable property.

Related Quotation

  • “[Inheritance is b]roadly 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.

Cite the Definition of Inheritance

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “inheritance.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/inheritance/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

inheritance. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/inheritance/

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “inheritance.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/inheritance/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“inheritance.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/inheritance/>.