Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.
  • n. An article of personal property included in an inherited estate.
  • n. A cultivar of a vegetable or fruit that is open-pollinated and is not grown widely for commercial purposes. An heirloom often exhibits a distinctive characteristic such as superior flavor or unusual coloration.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A valued possession that has been passed down through the generations.
  • n. A crop variety that has been passed down through generations of farmers by seed saving and cultivation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Any furniture, movable, or personal chattel, which by law or special custom descends to the heir along with the inheritance; any piece of personal property that has been in a family for several generations.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In English law, a personal chattel that, contrary to the nature of chattels, by special custom descends to an heir with the inheritance, being such a thing as cannot be separated from the estate without injury to it, as jewels of the crown, charters, deeds, and the like. The term is sometimes loosely applied to personal property left by will or settled so as to descend like an heirloom proper; such property is distinctively called an heirloom by devise or a quasi-heirloom.
  • n. Hence Any personal possession that passes from generation to generation in a family or a community; any article or characteristic transmitted by ancestors.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. something that has been in a family for generations
  • n. (law) any property that is considered by law or custom as inseparable from an inheritance is inherited with that inheritance

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English heirlome : heir, heir; see heir + lome, implement; see loom2.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English heirlome ("heirloom", literally "a tool or article passed to one's heirs"), equivalent to heir +‎ loom.

Examples

  • You've probably heard of the term heirloom somewhere before (my guess is having to do with antiques or tomatoes) -- Griffith calls it something that will not only last through your lifetime and into the next generation, but that you also want to keep that long because it's beautiful, functional, and timeless.

    Energy Bulletin -

  • I've also become very interested in heirloom seeds.

    Alice Walker: On Finding Your Bliss Interview by Evelyn C. White

  • Your most precious family heirloom is the shotgun used at your grandparents 'wedding.

    Top Ten Signs You're a Redneck Genealogist

  • Other gifts are given as investments - an heirloom is essentially a saftey deposit against hard times in the future or a down payment on a house, car or holiday.

    Archive 2005-01-01

  • This was inspired by a magnificent calendar stone, which still stands as an heirloom from the Aztecs, whose calendar was based on the conjunctions of

    Nobel Prize in Literature 1990 - Press Release

  • An excrescent t survives in a number of words, e. g., onc’t, twic’t, clos’t, wisht (for wish) and chanc’t; it is an heirloom from the English of two centuries ago.

    Chapter 9. The Common Speech. 10. Vulgar Pronunciation

  • If the perspective of the longevity of an instrument's "working life" is taken into consideration, the short time to seek out and find a Luthier that will have the ability and appreciation to make the heirloom is short indeed.

    Mandolin Cafe News

  • The name heirloom refers to how the seeds of some tomato varieties were passed on for generations, and there's widespread agreement among tomato lovers that heirloom tomatoes are often more flavorful than hybrid varieties.

    BlogHer

  • I don't get it, but I love it. mentioned back in June that BtA items would be a good move, and adding the name heirloom gives them a real tang of flavour and a reason to be.

    TyphoonAndrew's - Eye of the Storm

  • Having a piece your family’s heirloom is special, not to mention cheaper than buying something brand new.

    GREEN WEDDING GUIDE: Eco Wedding Rings | Inhabitat

Comments

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  • When your heirloom’s wilted brown

    When the devil’s pushing down

    When your mourning has a sound

    And you hesitate to laugh

    How quickly will your joy pass

    How quickly will your joy pass

    ("Heirloom", by Sufjan Stephens)

    March 8, 2011