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Heredity vs. Inheritance — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 7, 2024
Heredity refers to the genetic transmission of traits from parents to offspring, while inheritance encompasses both genetic traits and material assets passed down.
Heredity vs. Inheritance — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Heredity and Inheritance


Key Differences

Heredity is the biological process through which physical and behavioral traits are transmitted from parents to their offspring through genes. In contrast, inheritance includes not only the genetic aspects but also the passing down of personal property, titles, debts, rights, and obligations after someone dies.
While heredity is a natural, biological phenomenon that occurs in all organisms capable of reproduction, inheritance is a concept rooted in legal, cultural, and familial traditions, applying primarily to humans and to a lesser extent, domesticated animals through human intervention.
Heredity operates through the principles of genetics, with traits being influenced by the combination of genes received from both parents. On the other hand, inheritance involves legal processes and societal norms, determining how material assets and responsibilities are distributed among heirs.
The study of heredity is a cornerstone of genetics and evolutionary biology, focusing on how traits are passed on and how they vary or remain consistent across generations. In contrast, inheritance is studied within the realms of law, sociology, and anthropology, focusing on how wealth, status, and obligations are transferred within families and societies.
Heredity impacts the genetic makeup and potential health outcomes of individuals, influencing characteristics like eye color, height, and susceptibility to certain diseases. Inheritance, however, affects the economic and social status of individuals, influencing their wealth, responsibilities, and societal roles based on the assets and liabilities they receive.

Comparison Chart


Transmission of genetic traits from parents to offspring.
Transfer of property, rights, and obligations from one generation to the next.


Biological traits.
Genetic traits and material assets.

Governed by

Genetic principles.
Legal, cultural, and familial norms.

Study within

Genetics and evolutionary biology.
Law, sociology, and anthropology.

Impact on Individuals

Determines physical and behavioral traits.
Affects economic and social status.

Compare with Definitions


The total of inherited attributes


The act of receiving property or assets from an ancestor.
She received the house as part of her inheritance.


A natural, universal process affecting all reproducing organisms.
Heredity ensures that offspring resemble their parents.


The process through which familial wealth is passed down.
Inheritance laws determine how his estate will be divided.


The mechanism underlying genetic diversity and evolution.
Heredity contributes to the variation seen in species over generations.


Influences economic status and familial responsibilities.
The inheritance dispute affected their relationships.


The biological basis for the inheritance of physical traits.
Heredity plays a role in his natural athletic abilities.


A concept encompassing both material and genetic legacies.
His inheritance included both the family business and genetic traits.


The process by which traits are passed from one generation to the next.
The study of heredity helps understand genetic disorders.


Legal transfer of title, rights, or obligations after death.
The inheritance included several valuable paintings.


The genetic transmission of characteristics from parent to offspring.


Inheritance is the practice of passing on private property, titles, debts, entitlements, privileges, rights, and obligations upon the death of an individual. The rules of inheritance differ among societies and have changed over time.


The sum of characteristics and associated potentialities transmitted genetically to an individual organism.


The action of inheriting something
The inheritance of property from a relative.


Hereditary transmission of the physical and genetic qualities of parents to their offspring; the biological law by which living beings tend to repeat their characteristics in their descendants.


Something inherited or to be inherited
Her inheritance included a large estate.


Hereditary transmission of the physical and psychical qualities of parents to their offspring; the biological law by which living beings tend to repeat their characteristics in their descendants. See Pangenesis.


Something regarded as a heritage
The cultural inheritance of Rome.


The biological process whereby genetic factors are transmitted from one generation to the next


The process of genetic transmission of characteristics from parent or ancestor to offspring.


A characteristic so inherited.


The sum of genetically transmitted characteristics.


The passing of title to an estate upon death.


(countable) That which a person is entitled to inherit, by law or testament.


The act or mechanism of inheriting; the state of having inherited
The Indo-European languages share various similarities as a result of their inheritance from a common ancestor.


The biological attributes passed hereditarily from ancestors to their offspring.


The mechanism whereby parts of a superclass are available to instances of its subclass.


The act or state of inheriting; as, the inheritance of an estate; the inheritance of mental or physical qualities.


That which is or may be inherited; that which is derived by an heir from an ancestor or other person; a heritage; a possession which passes by descent.
When the man dies, let the inheritanceDescend unto the daughter.


A permanent or valuable possession or blessing, esp. one received by gift or without purchase; a benefaction.
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.


Possession; ownership; acquisition.
To you th' inheritance belongs by rightOf brother's praise; to you eke 'longs his love.


Transmission and reception by animal or plant generation.


A perpetual or continuing right which a man and his heirs have to an estate; an estate which a man has by descent as heir to another, or which he may transmit to another as his heir; an estate derived from an ancestor to an heir in course of law.
Men are not proprietors of what they have, merely for themselves; their children have a title to part of it which comes to be wholly theirs when death has put an end to their parents' use of it; and this we call inheritance.


Hereditary succession to a title or an office or property


That which is inherited; a title or property or estate that passes by law to the heir on the death of the owner


(genetics) attributes acquired via biological heredity from the parents


Any attribute or immaterial possession that is inherited from ancestors;
My only inheritance was my mother's blessing
The world's heritage of knowledge

Common Curiosities

How are heredity and inheritance studied?

Heredity is studied in genetics and evolutionary biology, focusing on the biological transmission of traits, while inheritance is studied in fields like law and sociology, focusing on the transfer of assets and obligations.

Can inheritance include non-material assets?

Yes, besides material wealth, inheritance can also include non-material legacies like titles or familial duties.

What is heredity?

Heredity is the process by which genetic information is passed from parents to their offspring, influencing their traits.

Is heredity limited to physical traits?

No, heredity also includes the transmission of behavioral traits and predispositions to certain health conditions.

How does inheritance differ from heredity?

Inheritance encompasses both the genetic transmission of traits and the legal transfer of assets, whereas heredity refers specifically to the biological transmission of genetic traits.

What is genetic inheritance?

Genetic inheritance refers to the way genetic information and traits are passed down from parents to offspring through genes.

How is property distributed in inheritance?

Property distribution in inheritance is determined by legal wills, statutes, and familial agreements, following the laws of the jurisdiction.

How do heredity and inheritance interact?

While heredity determines the biological traits passed down, inheritance can also include these genetic traits along with material assets and obligations.

Can heredity affect an individual's health?

Yes, heredity can influence an individual's susceptibility to certain diseases and health conditions.

Can inherited traits be predicted?

While some inherited traits can be predicted with genetic testing, the expression of traits can be influenced by environmental factors.

Can someone inherit debts?

Yes, debts can be part of an inheritance, subject to the laws governing estate and debt succession.

What role do laws play in inheritance?

Laws govern the process of inheritance, determining how an individual's assets and obligations are distributed after their death.

Are all traits hereditary?

Not all traits are hereditary; some are acquired or influenced by environmental factors.

What is the significance of understanding heredity?

Understanding heredity is crucial for grasping genetic disorders, improving health outcomes, and comprehending biological inheritance patterns.

What impacts do heredity and inheritance have on society?

Heredity influences the biological diversity and evolution of species, while inheritance affects social and economic structures by transferring wealth and obligations.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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