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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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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.

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


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.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Nwamitwa, (45) this tradition of male primogeniture became problematic for the Valoyi traditional community in South Africa when, in 1968, their traditional leader died without a male heir.
Male primogeniture unfairly discriminates against women and places them in a position of subservience and subordination.
Third, the emphasis on unbroken patrilineal transmission of the story forms an obvious parallel with its political theme--the specious rationale of male primogeniture in founding state legitimacy, exposed in Henry VIII's role as instigator of the English Reformation.
(9) Despite the introduction of male primogeniture for crown goods and entailed estates (morgadios) in the fifteenth century, (10) and despite the exclusion of women from the public sphere that Roman law theorized,11 women's property rights remained in my eyes extensive even among the aristocracy.
Specifically, African customary law--which is essentially patriarchal in both character and form and has been interpreted in a way that allocates crucial benefits according to male primogeniture has had a particularly detrimental effect on the socio-economic power and well-being of rural women.
* Male primogeniture, giving priority in the line of succession to male heirs, should go.
(6) Significantly, the hereditary process is fundamentally male primogeniture and, by its nature, therefore excludes women.
The legislation will end the principle of male primogeniture so that William and Kate's first baby will succeed to the throne, regardless of whether it is a girl or a boy.