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Inheritable vs. Heritable — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 6, 2024
Inheritable attributes are legally passed down through generations, often relating to property or titles, while heritable traits refer to genetic features transmitted from parents to offspring.
Inheritable vs. Heritable — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Inheritable and Heritable


Key Differences

Inheritable aspects primarily concern legal and property matters, indicating something can be passed from one generation to the next through legal means. This term is often used in contexts involving the transfer of property, titles, or rights after someone passes away. On the other hand, heritable traits are centered around biology and genetics, referring to characteristics or conditions that are transferred from parents to their children through genes.
Inheritable rights or properties are governed by laws and can vary significantly depending on jurisdiction. These legal frameworks determine how and what can be inherited, often requiring formal processes like wills or estate planning. Whereas heritable traits are dictated by the rules of genetics, not by human-made laws. The transmission of these traits follows patterns of inheritance, such as dominant and recessive genes, and is consistent across all human populations.
Inheritable involves a process that can be influenced by an individual's actions, such as creating a will or setting up trusts to ensure the desired transfer of assets. Individuals have significant control over how their assets are distributed after their death. In contrast, heritable characteristics are beyond one's control, determined entirely by the combination of genes received from both parents, and individuals cannot choose the traits they pass on to their offspring.
While inheritable attributes can include both tangible (like land or houses) and intangible assets (like patents or copyrights), heritable traits encompass physical characteristics (such as eye color or height), as well as susceptibility to certain diseases. This distinction highlights the scope of what can be passed down through generations—ranging from material possessions to biological attributes.
In the context of discussions about future generations, inheritable often refers to what one can legally leave behind for their descendants, including wealth or family heirlooms. Heritable, however, frequently enters conversations around family health histories or the likelihood of inheriting genetic conditions, emphasizing the biological legacy left to future generations.

Comparison Chart


Referring to assets, titles, or rights legally passed down
Referring to genetic traits or conditions passed down

Governed by

Legal systems and documents like wills
Genetic principles and biological inheritance


Can be influenced by personal decisions and planning
Determined by genetic makeup, beyond personal control


Property, titles, copyrights, patents
Eye color, height, genetic disorders


Legal and financial planning
Biology, genetics, and medicine

Compare with Definitions


Capable of being passed down from one generation to the next through legal means.
The family estate was inheritable, ensuring that the mansion remained within the family for generations.


Referring to traits or characteristics that can be passed from parents to offspring through genes.
Blue eyes are a heritable trait within that family.


Pertaining to rights or properties that can be inherited according to law.
The title of Duke is inheritable, passing from parent to firstborn.


Involving genetic information that influences physical or behavioral traits.
Scientists study heritable mutations to understand evolution.


Relating to something that can be bequeathed or transferred in a will.
Her collection of rare books was considered inheritable by her heirs.


Relating to the possibility of transmitting genetic features to descendants.
The risk of developing certain cancers can be heritable.


Involving assets that can be legally transferred after death.
The patent rights were inheritable, allowing his children to benefit from his invention.


Concerning the biological inheritance of traits.
Researchers are exploring how much of intelligence is heritable.


Subject to laws of inheritance and succession.
The family's inheritable land holdings were vast, spreading across several counties.


(of a characteristic) transmissible from parent to offspring
Intelligence is to some degree heritable


Capable of being inherited
Inheritable property
These characteristics are inheritable


(of property) capable of being inherited by heirs-at-law
Heritable property was excluded from the valuation


Capable of being inherited
Inheritable traits.
Inheritable property.


Capable of being passed to an heir
Heritable aristocratic titles.
Heritable property.


Having the right to inherit or the capability of inheriting
An inheritable heir.


(Archaic) Capable of inheriting or taking by inheritance
A queen who died without heritable issue.


That can be inherited.
An inheritable estate or title
An inheritable disease


Capable of being passed from one generation to the next; hereditary.


Capable of taking by inheritance, or of receiving by descent; capable of succeeding to, as an heir.


Of or relating to a trait whose observed variance within a given population results at least in part from genetic rather than environmental factors.


Capable of being inherited; transmissible or descendible; as, an inheritable estate or title.


That can legally be inherited.


Capable of being transmitted from parent to child; as, inheritable qualities or infirmities.


Genetically transmissible from parent to offspring; hereditary.


That can be inherited;
Inheritable traits such as eye color
An inheritable title


Capable of being inherited or of passing by inheritance; inheritable.


Capable of inheriting or receiving by inheritance.
This son shall be legitimate and heritable.


That can be inherited;
Inheritable traits such as eye color
An inheritable title

Common Curiosities

Can a disease be inheritable?

The term more commonly used for diseases that can be passed down genetically is "heritable," not "inheritable," which is more often used for legal contexts.

Is eye color inheritable or heritable?

Eye color is heritable, as it is determined by the genetics inherited from one's parents.

How does something become inheritable?

Something becomes inheritable through legal processes and planning, such as writing a will or establishing trusts.

What are heritable traits?

Heritable traits are characteristics or conditions that are passed from parents to their children through genes.

Can inheritable assets include intellectual property?

Yes, intellectual property, like patents or copyrights, can be inheritable through legal means.

What does inheritable mean?

Inheritable refers to something, such as property, rights, or titles, that can be legally passed from one generation to another.

Are heritable diseases always inherited?

Not always; while a disease may be heritable, environmental factors and genetic variability can influence whether it manifests.

Do heritable traits always come from direct parents?

Heritable traits come from the genetic information of direct parents, but can also reflect the broader genetic pool of ancestors.

Are all genetic traits heritable?

Yes, genetic traits are considered heritable as they are passed from parents to offspring through genes.

What determines if a trait is heritable?

The presence of the trait in the genetic code passed from parents to children determines if a trait is heritable.

Can heritable traits skip generations?

Yes, due to recessive genes, some heritable traits can skip generations and reappear in later ones.

What is the difference between inheritable and inherited?

"Inheritable" refers to the potential to be passed down, while "inherited" means something has already been passed down.

Is the ability to sing heritable?

While the physical traits affecting vocal abilities can be heritable, skill development also depends on environment and practice.

Can legal documents affect what is inheritable?

Yes, legal documents like wills and trusts can dictate what is inheritable and how it is distributed.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
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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