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Heritage vs. Inherited: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 5, 2023
Heritage refers to cultural, traditional, or ancestral practices, properties, and knowledge passed down through generations. Inherited refers to assets or genetic traits received from predecessors.

Key Differences

Heritage represents a broad term that embodies the cultural, historical, and sometimes physical assets, traits, or traditions passed down from previous generations. These could include language, rituals, architecture, and more. In contrast, "inherited" is often used in a narrower context to describe something tangible or biological that one directly receives from one's ancestors, such as property or genetic traits.
Heritage typically encompasses collective or communal aspects, serving as a part of a group or society's shared identity. On the other hand, "inherited" is generally more individualistic, focusing on the assets or traits that a person or entity has directly acquired from predecessors.
Grammatically, "heritage" primarily functions as a noun. It describes something held in common by a group, often intangible. "Inherited," however, is generally used as a past participle or an adjective to describe something that has been passed down, as in "inherited wealth" or "inherited characteristics."
To summarize, heritage refers to a broad array of cultural, historical, or traditional attributes that are collectively shared and passed down. In contrast, "inherited" deals more with the individual reception of particular assets, whether tangible like property or intangible like genetic traits.

Comparison Chart


Broad (cultural, historical, etc.)
Narrow (property, genetics)


Collective or communal


Can be intangible
Usually tangible or biological

Grammatical Role

Primarily a noun
Often a past participle or adjective


Traditions, language, folklore
Property, genetic traits

Heritage and Inherited Definitions


Shared history
The heritage of the Civil Rights Movement is important.


Genetic traits
He inherited his blue eyes from his mother.


Architectural assets
The heritage buildings need preservation.


Acquired wealth
She inherited a considerable sum of money.


Ancestral traditions
Our family's heritage includes various holiday rituals.


Legal entitlement
He inherited the family business.


Cultural legacy
The heritage of the Native Americans is rich and diverse.


Passed-down responsibilities
She inherited her father's role in the community.


Property that is or can be inherited; an inheritance.


Received property
She inherited a house from her grandparents.


Something that is passed down from preceding generations; a tradition.


To take (property) by law of descent from an intestate owner.


The status acquired by a person through birth; a birthright
A heritage of affluence and social position.


To receive (property) by will; receive by bequest or devise.


A domesticated animal or a crop of a traditional breed, usually not widely produced for commercial purposes.


To receive or take over from a predecessor
The new administration inherited the economic problems of the last four years.


An inheritance; property that may be inherited.


(Biology) To receive (a characteristic) from a parent or ancestor by genetic transmission.


A tradition; a practice or set of values that is passed down from preceding generations through families or through institutional memory.


To gain (something) as one's right or portion
"A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (King James Bible).


A birthright; the status acquired by birth, especially of but not exclusive to the firstborn.


To hold or take possession of an inheritance.


(attributive) Having a certain background, such as growing up with a second language.
A heritage speaker; a heritage language
The university requires heritage Spanish students to enroll in a specially designed Spanish program not available to non-heritage students.


Simple past tense and past participle of inherit


That which is inherited, or passes from heir to heir; inheritance.
Part of my heritage,Which my dead father did bequeath to me.


Obtained via an inheritance
Inherited money


A possession; the Israelites, as God's chosen people; also, a flock under pastoral charge.


An inherited disease


Practices that are handed down from the past by tradition;
A heritage of freedom


Tending to occur among members of a family usually by heredity; as, an inherited disease.


Any attribute or immaterial possession that is inherited from ancestors;
My only inheritance was my mother's blessing
The world's heritage of knowledge


Tending to occur among members of a family usually by heredity;
An inherited disease
Familial traits
Genetically transmitted features


That which is inherited; a title or property or estate that passes by law to the heir on the death of the owner


Hereditary succession to a title or an office or property


Intangible assets
The folk songs are part of our heritage.


Can heritage be tangible?

Yes, heritage can include tangible assets like buildings and artifacts.

Can heritage be individual?

Generally, heritage is considered collective but can have individual significance.

Can traits be inherited?

Yes, genetic traits can be inherited from parents.

How is property inherited?

Property is often inherited through a legal will or by statutory rules.

Can skills be inherited?

Skills are generally learned, but predispositions can be inherited.

Is heritage always positive?

Heritage can have both positive and negative aspects.

What is usually inherited?

Property, wealth, and genetic traits are commonly inherited.

Can heritage include food?

Yes, culinary traditions can be part of cultural heritage.

Is heritage only cultural?

No, heritage can also include historical, architectural, and intangible assets.

Is language part of heritage?

Yes, language is often considered an essential part of cultural heritage.

Can heritage change over time?

Yes, heritage can evolve as society changes.

How are genetic traits inherited?

Genetic traits are inherited through DNA from parents.

Can you inherit debts?

In some legal systems, debts can be inherited.

Can you refuse an inheritance?

Yes, an inheritance can generally be legally refused.

What's the legal process to protect heritage?

Heritage sites are often protected by cultural or historical preservation laws.
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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