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Gene vs. Trait: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 31, 2024
A gene is a segment of DNA encoding functional products; a trait is a characteristic or feature influenced by one or more genes.

Key Differences

Genes are units of heredity made up of DNA, residing in chromosomes, and responsible for guiding the formation of proteins or RNA. Traits, on the other hand, are the physical, behavioral, or physiological attributes that result from the expression of genes.
Genes carry the instructions for synthesizing proteins that determine how an organism’s body works and responds to its environment. Traits manifest as observable characteristics, such as eye color, which are influenced by the proteins produced as a result of genetic instructions.
In genetics, genes can be dominant or recessive, affecting the likelihood of a trait being passed to the next generation. Traits themselves are the manifestations of these genetic patterns, demonstrating how genetic information is expressed in an organism.
Genes undergo mutations, which can lead to variations in the way traits are expressed. These mutations in genes can lead to different versions of a trait, such as variations in hair color or susceptibility to certain diseases.
The study of genes is a central part of genetics, focusing on how genetic information is encoded and transmitted. The study of traits, conversely, involves understanding how these genetic instructions are manifested and can be observed in the phenotype of an organism.

Comparison Chart


Segment of DNA that encodes a functional product
Characteristic or feature influenced by one or more genes


Carries instructions for protein synthesis
Manifestation of genetic information


Located in chromosomes
Observed in an organism’s phenotype


Can undergo mutations
Varies depending on genetic expression

Study Focus

Focuses on genetic coding and transmission
Focuses on expression and observable characteristics

Gene and Trait Definitions


Genes are units of hereditary information passed from parents to offspring.
Eye color is determined by multiple genes inherited from both parents.


Traits can be physical or behavioral characteristics influenced by genes.
Intelligence is a complex trait influenced by multiple genes.


Genes are responsible for guiding the development and functioning of organisms.
Genes play a crucial role in the growth and development of an organism.


Traits vary among individuals of the same species.
Different blood types are examples of genetic traits.


A gene is a segment of DNA that contains coding for a protein or RNA molecule.
The BRCA gene is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.


A trait is a specific characteristic of an organism, like hair color or height.
Brown hair is a common trait in humans.


Genes can mutate, leading to variations in traits.
A mutation in the melanin gene can cause albinism.


Traits can be inherited or acquired through environmental factors.
Musical talent can be a trait developed through practice and genetic predisposition.


Genes are located on chromosomes and are made up of sequences of nucleotides.
The human genome contains about 20,000-25,000 genes.


Traits are the observable expression of genes.
The trait of blue eyes results from the expression of specific genes.


A hereditary unit consisting of a sequence of DNA that occupies a specific location on a chromosome and is transcribed into an RNA molecule that may function directly or be translated into an amino acid chain. Genes undergo mutation when their DNA sequences change.


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


(genetics) A theoretical unit of heredity of living organisms; a gene may take several values and in principle predetermines a precise trait of an organism's form (phenotype), such as hair color.


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


(molecular biology) A segment of DNA or RNA from a cell's or an organism's genome, that may take several forms and thus parameterizes a phenomenon, in general the structure of a protein; locus.
A change in a gene is reflected in the protein or RNA molecule that it codes for.


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


(genetics) a segment of DNA that is involved in producing a polypeptide chain; it can include regions preceding and following the coding DNA as well as introns between the exons; it is considered a unit of heredity;
Genes were formerly called factors


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


(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.


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


What is a dominant gene?

A gene that overpowers the effect of another gene for the same trait.

How are genes inherited?

They are passed from parents to offspring through reproduction.

What is a gene?

A segment of DNA that encodes for a functional product.

Can traits be non-genetic?

Yes, some traits can also be influenced by environmental factors.

Can the environment alter traits?

Yes, environmental factors can influence the expression of traits.

What causes gene mutations?

Mutations can occur due to errors in DNA replication or environmental factors.

Can genes be modified?

Yes, through genetic engineering and biotechnology.

What are polygenic traits?

Traits controlled by more than one gene.

What is a recessive gene?

A gene whose effects are masked by a dominant gene.

How do traits differ from person to person?

Due to variations in genetic makeup and environmental influences.

What is a trait?

A characteristic or feature influenced by one or more genes.

Can new traits evolve?

Yes, through genetic mutations and natural selection.

Are all traits visible?

No, some traits are internal, like blood type.

Do identical twins have the same traits?

They have very similar, but not always identical, traits.

Are behavioral traits genetic?

Some are influenced by genetics, but many also involve environmental factors.

Do all organisms have genes?

Yes, all living organisms have genes.

How do genes affect health?

They can predispose individuals to certain diseases or conditions.

How are genes studied?

Through genetics and genomics research.

Is it possible to predict traits?

To some extent, using genetic information, but with limitations due to environmental factors.

Can traits skip generations?

Yes, especially if the trait is linked to a recessive gene.
About Author
Written 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.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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