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heir, person designated by law to succeed to the ownership of property of another if that owner does not make a contrary disposition of it by will. A person who takes property left to him by will is not an heir but a legatee. The property that the heir receives is his inheritance. Originally the common law confined the term heir to an inheritor of real estate; the persons to whom the personal property of the deceased went were called the next of kin. The group of heirs of a person may differ from the group that the law recognizes as his next of kin, but the law that dictates the constitution of both is now largely statutory, and in many states of the United States the statutes have abolished all distinction. When title to property is in a living person and his heirs, the meaning is merely that the person has absolute ownership of the property and can do with it what he wishes. No person may be the heir of a living person; the relationship arises only at the death of another. If the other person is still living, the person who may become an heir is called an heir apparent or heir presumptive. An heir presumptive is in the same position as an heir apparent except that his claim may be superseded, as by the birth of one more closely related to the owner. These terms are much used with regard to dynastic succession; an heir apparent is in such connection the undisputed heir to the throne if he survives the incumbent; an heir presumptive is one who will inherit the throne if nothing intervenes—especially the birth of a child to the incumbent.


heredity, transmission from generation to generation through the process of reproduction in plants and animals of factors which cause the offspring to resemble their parents. That like begets like has been a maxim since ancient times. Although the fact of heredity has been generally known for centuries, the actual mechanisms by which inherited characteristics are transmitted to successive generations could not be satisfactorily explained until powerful enough microscopes and sufficiently refined research techniques disclosed the true nature of the universal reproductive processes of cell division and those, in “higher” animals, in which the sperm and the ovum, containing the hereditary material (see chromosome) in their cell nuclei, unite to give rise to the new individual. Thus the science of heredity developed long after practical observations of breeding and of parent-child resemblance had been noted and also after the theory of evolution had been established. In the 18th cent. the popular concept of heredity was the theory of preformation: that the prototypical members of each organism (e.g., Adam and Eve among humans) contained within them all future generations, perfectly formed but in miniature, arranged one inside the next like a series of Chinese boxes. In the early 19th cent. Lamarck developed a theory of evolution in which the then current belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics served as an explanation of its mechanism. The theory of pangenesis, as it was termed in a modified version in Darwinism, was strongly reminiscent of the ideas of Hippocrates and Aristotle. It hypothesized tiny particles called pangens, or gemmules—each bearing the hereditary potential for a specific body part—which circulated in the body and eventually collected in the reproductive cells. Finally, in 1875, Oscar Hertwig's principle of the universality of fertilization in sexual reproduction confirmed the transmission of hereditary material through the two sex cells. August Weismann's theory of germ plasm continuity (1892) established that the germ (sex) cells are set apart from other body cells early in embryonic development and thus that only changes in the germ plasm, and not influences on the adult body, can affect the characteristics of future generations. In 1900 the neglected work of Gregor Mendel was rediscovered and the first scientific laws for the mechanisms of hereditary were presented. These, correlating with the microscopic and experimental observations of the behavior of chromosomes and reproductive cells and later with the biochemical analyses of genes and their products, provided the basis for modern studies. Genetics is the modern science that studies the mechanisms for the transmission of hereditary information in the resulting organism. Mutation is a mechanism for evolutionary change, initiating new variations.


See F. Jacob, The Logic of Life (1974); J. H. Bennett, Natural Selection, Heredity, and Eugenics (1983); B. W. Winterton, The Process of Heredity (1983).

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the transmission of rights to PROPERTY. It is usually distinguished from SUCCESSION by focusing the latter on the transmission of rights to a particular office or status. See also KINSHIP.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



transfer of the property of a deceased person (decedent) to his heirs. A distinction is made between inheritance according to the statutes and under a will. Inheritance according to the statutes usually takes place if there is no will, and in such a case the property is inherited by the persons indicated by law. In the USSR there are two categories of statutory heirs. The first category consists of the children (including adopted children), spouse, and parents (including adoptive parents) of the deceased, as well as a child of the deceased born after his death. The second category includes the brothers and sisters of the deceased and his paternal and maternal grandparents. Heirs in the second category have a right to inherit only if there are no heirs in the first category, if the heirs in the first category do not accept the inheritance, or if all the heirs in the first category have been deprived by will of the right to inherit. Within each category all persons inherit equal shares. Statutory heirs are also disabled persons who were dependent on the deceased for at least one year before his death. Such persons inherit equally with the heirs of the category that receives the inheritance. In the absence of other heirs, the dependent persons inherit all the property of the deceased. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren are statutory heirs if at the time of the death of the decedent a parent who would have been an heir is no longer alive; they inherit equal portions of the statutory share that would have been inherited by their deceased parent.

Household goods and personal effects are inherited according to a special procedure: they pass to the statutory heirs who had been living with the deceased for at least one year before his death, regardless of their inheritance category or statutory share.

If there are no heirs, if none of the heirs accepts the inheritance, or if they have all been disinherited by the testator, the property passes to the state by right of inheritance. An heir who has accepted an inheritance is liable for the debts of the decedent within the limits of the value of the property which has passed to him.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(computer science)
A feature of object-oriented programming that allows a new class to be defined simply by stating how it differs from an existing class.
The acquisition of characteristics by transmission of particular alleles from ancestor to descendant.
The sum total of characteristics dependent upon the constitution of the sperm-fertilized ovum.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. Law
a. hereditary succession to an estate, title, etc.
b. the right of an heir to succeed to property on the death of an ancestor
c. something that may legally be transmitted to an heir
2. the derivation of characteristics of one generation from an earlier one by heredity
3. Obsolete hereditary rights
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(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.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


In object technology, the ability of one class of objects to inherit properties from a higher class.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
That's more than eight times greater than the average PS4,000 inherited by youngsters aged between 16 and 24.
Quite like you take pride in moving your fingers over the frayed embroidery of your grandmother's moth-eaten quilts that you have inherited or admire the filigree on the wooden chest that your grandaunt had bequeathed upon you.
In Wales, 12% of share holders surveyed had inherited shares, while in the Midlands 14% of shareholders had done so, in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber 13% of share holders had done so, while in East Anglia 11% of people with shares had inherited them.
In favoring the creditors in this case, the Supreme Court gave several reasons why funds held in an inherited IRA are not funds set aside for retirement purposes.
"Using advanced genomic analysis, we found that 20 percent of women with ovarian cancer had inherited mutations in a gene pathway known to be important in inherited breast and ovarian cancer.
Another client recently inherited money, part of which was from the retirement funds of that client's deceased sibling.
Along with a big-ticket budget and an understanding that the athletics department must continue to be self-supporting, the next Oregon AD will inherit an intense and unrelenting pressure to field winning teams that keep stadium seats filled and donors blissful.
Andrea Cesi was to inherit all Portia's remaining goods, lands, tides, and holdings, as befitted the herede universale, but she envisioned an unorthodox and particular use of this inheritance by her son.
Page after page of obstruent data and marching columns of Pearson correlations in the new book The Bell Curve by Murray and Herrnstein, which holds that success in life is mainly determined by inherited IQ and that statistically significant differences in inherited intellect exist among the races, imply that the issues at play in the IQ dispute are so sophisticated only readers of high intelligence can grasp them.
Some infants may inherit the tendency to acquire hearing loss later in life.
Eight years ago, Lady Justice Mary Kasango ruled that married daughters had a right to inherit their parents' property.