Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


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 ?
As it happens, the first modern European monarchy to abandon male primogeniture was Sweden's in 1980, and the first beneficiary is indeed Princess Victoria - Victoria Ingrid Alice Desiree, to be precise.
In drawing attention to these modulations I do not mean to suggest that the argument of book 1 is simply contradictory, or that an initial defence of primogeniture is replaced with a tenet often seen as intrinsic to "humanist" education: that a good student depends on a combination of native wit (ingenium), practise (exercitatio) and study (ars).
Kamps stretches the term "materialist" to include not only essays with traditional consideration of economic matters (Delaney on Lear and Cohen on Merchant, unpacking the collisions of economic epochs) but also New Historicist (Greenblatt on "salutary anxiety" in Measure, Montrose on primogeniture in As You Like It) and feminist examples (Boose on Shrew and scolds' bridles) - important essays all.
Although he detects major patterns with ease, he does not see that wealth and subsistence wages were interrelated; that dowry inflation was probably not an index of burgeoning wealth but of unpromising economic times, as the groups at the top closed ranks; that the advent of primogeniture around 1500, by means of which the upper classes contrived to keep family patrimonies intact, was symptomatic of a cramped or uncertain economy; and finally that the growing population of priests, nuns, and friars denoted the promise of material safety in a social order set away from the world of the laity.
Erickson begins with what many scholars think they know about gender and early modern laws regarding property: that it favors men primarily through primogeniture, which confers land on an eldest son, rather than dividing it equally among heirs, or granting it to the eldest child, even if female, and through coverture, which she defines in her glossary as "the common law fiction that a husband and wife were one person and that one was the husband; she being figuratively covered by him, she had independent legal identity at common law for purposes of civil, and to some extent criminal, suits" (237).
Women made thirty percent of all bequests in the 1690s, but lost ground as laws enforcing primogeniture and expanding husbands' control over assets took hold.
A violation of the rules governing primogeniture is a remarkable occurrence, and despite the lack of supporting evidence, Markham's casual dismissal of the disinheritance has proved tempting to writers even to the present day.
Since custom forbade a simple transition to the practice of primogeniture practiced elsewhere in Italy, the means adopted were, firstly, to entail the estate; secondly, to limit the succession to a single line of descent by ensuring--it seems by informal agreement--that only one male member of the family married.
And, whereas across the Severn, the age-old rule of primogeniture saw the eldest son given the lion's share of privilege - thereby eroding his younger male siblings' power and wealth over time - the Celtic custom of Cyfran could explain what made Wales so unique compared to the rest of Western Europe in this respect.
The Centre had on Wednesday said that the Mughalera mosque Jama Masjid is a Wakf property and it has to decide how the rule of primogeniture applies on anointment of new Shahi Imam, which has come under challenge.
European governments perpetuated the concentration of wealth through inherited titles and laws of primogeniture.
Course-and-distance winner Primogeniture is among six runners representing the Classic generation.