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The status of being the firstborn child among several children of the same parents. A rule of inheritance at Common Law through which the oldest male child has the right to succeed to the estate of an ancestor to the exclusion of younger siblings, both male and female, as well as other relatives.


n. Latin for "first born," the ancient rule from feudal England (except in the County of Kent) that the oldest son would inherit the entire estate of his parents (or nearest ancestor), and, if there was no male heir, the daughters would take (receive the property) in equal shares. The intent was to preserve larger properties from being broken up into small holdings, which might weaken the power of nobles. It does not exist in the United States.

See: birthright


being first-born. Many legal systems have from time to time and place to place given precedence to the first-born in inheritance. It has the benefit of preserving large hard-won estates. It is not popular with the other children. Concentration of wealth in money as opposed to land has made it much less useful. It no longer applies to ordinary property in the UK.

PRIMOGENITURE. The state of being first born the eldest.
     2. Formerly primogeniture gave a title in cases of descent to the oldest son in preference to the other children; this unjust distinction has been generally abolished in the United States.

References in periodicals archive ?
However, one of the basic premises of the book - that primogeniture was not the norm in Israel or elsewhere in the ancient Near East - seems very questionable.
The court had failed to consider the law of primogeniture which applies to royal families and the daughters cannot be made legal heirs.
The family, who became the Counts of Barcelona, moved from a comital power that was considered "private, heritable, and divisible property" (138) to primogeniture and consolidation.
During the Former Han, the emperor was not bound by the general rule of primogeniture in choosing his heir.
The hero who inherits in this novel is after all illegitimate, hardly in line with the system of primogeniture which English society certainly did promote as 'natural'.
As with their American counterparts, there has been considerable mixture along the way, so that 'Creole' encompasses persons of a lighter shade with French settler primogeniture as well as others who look as if they themselves had come directly from Mozambique or Madagascar.
In line with the general antimiscegenationist sentiments of the day, he was more concerned with regulating marriage and primogeniture based on a presumed purity of blood lines.
At this point, the race is remarkably wide open -- somewhat unusual for a party that places great stock in primogeniture.
In an age when independent, professional management dominates, primogeniture - handing reins to the firstborn son - is no longer the norm.
All this appears to run headlong against our notion, wrong as it turns out, that primogeniture was normative in ancient societies.
299) - the author recognizes many factors differentiating the historical development of Eastern Europe from the West's: a lack of primogeniture and democratic tradition, the repetition of laws in the Slav lands, economic backwardness, and bureaucratic rigidity.