Primogeniture Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Primogeniture, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Primogeniture?

Latin word meaning ” first born”. It refers to the common tradition of the first born child of the parents who, by this law, inherits the entire estate of the parents because he/she is the eldest of all the children. This law is no more in existence in most of the countries now.

History and Meaning of Primogeniture

Primogeniture is a legal term that refers to a system of inheritance where the eldest son inherits the entire estate upon the death of his parents. The term comes from the Latin word "primogenitus", which means "first born". Primogeniture was a widely accepted practice in many cultures around the world for centuries.

The origins of primogeniture can be traced back to the Roman Empire, where it was a legal principle for passing down property to the eldest son. The practice then spread to Europe and became the norm in feudal societies where land was the primary source of wealth. It was believed that the eldest son was most qualified to manage the property and protect the family's legacy. Primogeniture was also used to maintain the integrity of aristocratic families and prevent their estates from being divided among siblings.

Examples of Primogeniture

Example 1:

In ancient Rome, the practice of primogeniture ensured that the eldest son inherited the family's property and titles, while the younger sons were expected to seek their fortune elsewhere.

Example 2:

In England, primogeniture was the customary law for the transmission of land and titles from the Middle Ages until the 19th century, when it was abolished.

Example 3:

Some Native American tribes, such as the Hopi and Navajo, still practice primogeniture in the passing down of certain religious and cultural practices.

Legal Terms Similar to Primogeniture


The legal restriction on the inheritance of property, where it can only be passed down to certain heirs in order to preserve the family's legacy.

Partible inheritance

The practice of dividing the inheritance equally among all children or heirs, rather than giving it all to the eldest son.

Life estate

A legal arrangement where a person has the right to use and enjoy a property for the duration of their lifetime, but cannot sell or transfer it to anyone else.