Difference Wiki

Dominant Gene vs. Recessive Gene: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 9, 2023
Dominant genes express their trait even with one copy, while recessive genes require two copies to express their trait.

Key Differences

Dominant genes are notably influential in determining phenotype, expressing their associated traits even if just one allele (copy) is present, contrasting with recessive genes which necessitate two alleles to showcase their trait. The interplay between dominant and recessive genes culminates in the myriad of traits we observe in living organisms.
Noteworthy is that the dominant gene, when present, will invariably veil the trait of the recessive gene. In contrast, a recessive gene only materializes its trait in the absence of a dominant gene, specifically, when it is paired with another recessive allele.
Akin to a silent yet potential undercurrent, recessive genes may not be phenotypically visible in generations, only to emerge when two carriers mate, whereas dominant genes, boisterous in their expression, seldom mask themselves, readily showcasing their traits in offspring when present.
In genetic crosses, involving both dominant and recessive genes, the dominant gene’s trait often appears more frequently in progenies, due to its potent expressive capability, whereas the recessive gene’s trait may be obscured unless it's inherited from both parents.
From a disease perspective, many genetic disorders stem from recessive genes, remaining concealed within carriers until mated with another carrier, while disorders from dominant genes often show in every generation, as just one copy is enough to express the condition.

Comparison Chart


Expressed with one allele
Expressed with two alleles

Masking Ability

Masks recessive gene traits
Masked by dominant gene traits

Prevalence in Progeny

Generally more common
Less common unless inherited from both parents

Phenotypic Visibility

Often visible
May be hidden across generations

Disorder Inheritance

Can be directly inherited
Often skips generations

Dominant Gene and Recessive Gene Definitions

Dominant Gene

It can mask the presence of a recessive allele.
The dominant gene for a cleft chin hides the recessive smooth chin trait.

Recessive Gene

Recessive genes manifest traits only when paired.
The recessive gene for blue eyes was passed down from both parents.

Dominant Gene

A single copy from parents is sufficient for expression.
The dominant gene for tall stature was passed from the mother.

Recessive Gene

Visible in the phenotype only if dominant alleles are absent.
Absence of the dominant allele allowed the recessive gene for albinism to express.

Dominant Gene

Often responsible for common physiological features.
The dominant gene gave the majority of the population curly hair.

Recessive Gene

May carry traits or disorders that skip generations.
The recessive gene for hemophilia manifested after several generations.

Dominant Gene

Common in hybrid organisms, displaying mixed traits.
The dominant gene from the hybrid plant yielded yellow flowers.

Recessive Gene

Often carries traits that are masked by dominant genes.
The recessive gene for red hair was hidden by the dominant brown hair gene.

Dominant Gene

Dominant genes always express their trait when present.
Brown eyes are often due to a dominant gene for that trait.

Recessive Gene

Requires two copies for trait manifestation in offspring.
Both parents were carriers of the recessive gene for cystic fibrosis.


Why are some diseases only caused by recessive genes?

Some diseases are recessive because two copies of the mutated gene (one from each parent) are needed to manifest the condition.

Are dominant genes always common in populations?

Not necessarily; dominant genes might be less common if they appeared recently or if they confer disadvantages.

Can a single trait be determined by multiple genes?

Yes, polygenic traits are controlled by multiple genes, each contributing to the final phenotype.

What determines whether a gene is dominant or recessive?

The expression of associated traits determines gene dominance; dominant genes express traits with one allele, while recessive genes need two.

Can a trait be neither entirely dominant nor recessive?

Yes, in cases of incomplete dominance, the offspring’s trait is a blend of the parents' traits.

Can a dominant gene become recessive in future generations?

No, dominance and recessiveness are inherent properties of genes and do not change.

Can a parent pass a recessive gene without having the trait?

Yes, a parent can be a carrier of a recessive gene without expressing the associated trait.

How do dominant genetic disorders get transmitted?

Dominant disorders are transmitted when an affected parent passes the dominant gene to their offspring.

Can the environment influence the expression of dominant or recessive genes?

Yes, environmental factors can influence gene expression and the manifestation of genetic traits.

Why do dominant genetic disorders often appear in every generation?

Because only one copy of the dominant gene is needed to express the disorder, making it likely to appear in every generation.

Can someone test for carrier status of recessive genes?

Yes, genetic testing can reveal if an individual carries recessive genes for certain traits or disorders.

Are recessive genes weaker than dominant genes?

Not necessarily; recessive genes are not "weaker," but their expression is masked by dominant genes in heterozygous pairs.

How do recessive genes persist in populations?

Recessive genes persist because they are masked by dominant genes and can be passed silently through generations.

Can one gene be both dominant and recessive for different traits?

A single gene might influence multiple traits (pleiotropy), but a specific allele of the gene is either dominant or recessive.

Can two brown-eyed parents have a blue-eyed child?

Yes, if both parents carry a recessive gene for blue eyes, they can have a blue-eyed child.

Why is it rare to see traits from recessive genes?

It's rare because the trait only appears when individuals inherit two copies of the recessive gene.

How do new dominant or recessive genes appear in a population?

New dominant or recessive genes can appear through mutations, which may then be passed through generations.

How are dominant and recessive genes represented in genetics?

Typically, dominant genes are represented with uppercase letters (e.g., “R”), while recessive genes are lowercase (e.g., “r”).

Is it possible to manipulate gene dominance in breeding?

Selective breeding can promote certain traits but manipulating gene dominance at the molecular level requires advanced genetic engineering.

What is co-dominance in genetics?

Co-dominance occurs when both alleles for a gene are equally expressed in the phenotype, like in AB blood type.
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.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons