Heredity is the biological process responsible for passing on physical traits from one generation to another. If your mom and dad both have dreamy blue eyes and so do you, then you've got hereditary to thank for your movie-star gaze.

First used in the 1530s, the noun heredity comes from the Latin word hereditatem, meaning "condition of being an heir." It can refer to inheriting characteristics from your parents, or it can refer more broadly to the passing on of genetic factors from one generation to the next. Heredity will determine a person's hair color and height. And due to heredity, some people are more susceptible to diseases and disorders like cancer, alcoholism, and depression.

Definitions of heredity
  1. noun
    the biological process whereby genetic factors are transmitted from one generation to the next
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    type of:
    biological process, organic process
    a process occurring in living organisms
  2. noun
    the total of inherited attributes
    synonyms: genetic endowment
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    hereditary pattern, inheritance
    (genetics) attributes acquired via biological heredity from the parents
    ancestry, derivation, filiation, lineage
    inherited properties shared with others of your bloodline
    gene linkage, linkage
    (genetics) traits that tend to be inherited together as a consequence of an association between their genes; all of the genes of a given chromosome are linked (where one goes they all go)
    X-linked dominant inheritance
    hereditary pattern in which a dominant gene on the X chromosome causes a characteristic to be manifested in the offspring
    X-linked recessive inheritance
    hereditary pattern in which a recessive gene on the X chromosome results in the manifestation of characteristics in male offspring and a carrier state in female offspring
    type of:
    a basic or essential attribute shared by all members of a class
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