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Allele vs. Trait: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 19, 2024
An allele is a variant form of a gene, while a trait is a characteristic or feature expressed by alleles in an organism.

Key Differences

An allele is a specific version of a gene that resides at a particular locus on a chromosome. Traits, however, are the physical or behavioral characteristics that are manifested from the expression of alleles.
Alleles contribute to the genetic diversity within a population, providing different versions of a gene. Traits are the observable expressions, like eye color or height, resulting from the interaction of alleles.
In an organism, each gene may have multiple alleles, each encoding a different version of a protein. Traits are influenced not just by alleles but also by environmental factors and the interaction of multiple genes.
Alleles can be dominant or recessive, influencing the likelihood of a trait being expressed. Traits can be dominant (visible in the organism) or recessive (hidden unless both alleles are recessive).
The combination of alleles an organism inherits determines its genotype, while the traits it displays are its phenotype.

Comparison Chart


A variant form of a gene.
A characteristic or feature of an organism.

Role in Genetics

Contributes to genetic diversity within a population.
The physical or behavioral expression of genetic information.


Multiple alleles can exist for a single gene.
Traits are influenced by the interaction of multiple alleles.


Can be dominant or recessive.
Expressed as dominant or recessive traits in the phenotype.


Determines part of the genetic makeup (genotype).
The observable manifestation in an organism (phenotype).

Allele and Trait Definitions


A form of a gene that influences a specific trait.
The allele for freckles is an example of a dominant trait.


A characteristic or feature of an organism, often genetic in nature.
Blue eyes are a trait influenced by genetic inheritance.


A variant form of a gene that can cause different genetic traits.
The allele for blue eyes differs from the allele for brown eyes.


A genetically determined characteristic.
Blood type is a trait determined by the alleles inherited from parents.


One of two or more alternative forms of a gene.
Alleles determine varied traits like hair color in humans.


A specific feature or quality distinguishing an organism.
Having dimples is a genetic trait.


A genetic variant that governs a trait's expression.
Sickle cell anemia is caused by a specific allele of the hemoglobin gene.


An observable quality or property in an organism.
The trait of tall stature in humans is influenced by genetics and environment.


Different versions of a gene found at the same place on a chromosome.
In peas, the allele for green color is dominant over the allele for yellow.


A distinguishing feature, as of a person's character.


Any of the alternative forms of a gene or other homologous DNA sequence. Also called allelomorph.


A morphological, physiological, or behavioral feature of an organism.


(genetics) One of a number of alternative forms of the same gene occupying a given position, or locus, on a chromosome.


(Archaic) A short line or mark made with a writing or drawing implement.


One of two or more alternative forms of a gene that can have the same place on homologous chromosomes and are responsible for alternative traits.


An identifying characteristic, habit or trend.
The number one personality trait I hate is hypocrisy. Why can't you be consistent!?


Either of a pair of Mendelian characters that may occur in an organism as a consequence of variation at one gene locus.


(object-oriented) An uninstantiable collection of methods that provides functionality to a class by using the class’s own interface.
Traits are somewhat between an interface and a mixin.


One of two alternate forms of a gene that can have the same locus on homologous chromosomes and are responsible for alternative traits;
Some alleles are dominant over others


A stroke; a touch.
By this single trait Homer makes an essential difference between the Iliad and Odyssey.


A distinguishing or marked feature; a peculiarity; as, a trait of character.


A distinguishing feature of your personal nature


An attribute or feature exhibited by an organism.
Leaf shape in plants is a trait that can vary within a species.


Can a trait be influenced by multiple alleles?

Yes, some traits are influenced by multiple alleles, leading to a variety of expressions.

What is a dominant allele?

A dominant allele is one whose trait always appears in the organism when present.

What does a trait refer to in genetics?

A trait refers to any observable characteristic or feature of an organism.

How do alleles affect traits?

Alleles determine the different expressions of a trait by encoding variations of a gene.

How are traits inherited?

Traits are inherited through the transmission of alleles from parents to offspring.

What is an allele?

An allele is a variant form of a gene found at a specific locus on a chromosome.

Can environmental factors influence traits?

Yes, many traits are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.

Can an allele be changed?

Alleles can undergo mutations, leading to changes in their structure and function.

What's a recessive trait?

A recessive trait is expressed only when two copies of the recessive allele are present.

Can traits skip generations?

Yes, particularly recessive traits can skip generations and reappear later.

Are alleles only found in humans?

No, alleles are found in all organisms with DNA, from bacteria to plants and animals.

What is genotype?

Genotype refers to the genetic makeup of an organism, including its alleles.

What is phenotype?

Phenotype is the set of observable traits of an organism, influenced by its genotype.

Do all organisms have the same number of alleles?

The number of alleles varies widely among different organisms and different genes.

How does a trait differ from a phenotype?

A trait is a specific characteristic, while phenotype encompasses all observable traits.

Can a single gene influence multiple traits?

Yes, some genes, known as pleiotropic genes, can influence multiple traits.

What are polygenic traits?

Polygenic traits are controlled by multiple genes, each contributing to the trait.

How do alleles contribute to biodiversity?

Alleles contribute to genetic diversity, which underpins the variety of traits in a population.

What is an example of a human trait?

Eye color is an example of a human trait influenced by genetics.

How are alleles studied?

Alleles are studied through genetic analysis, including techniques like DNA sequencing.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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