The words congenital and hereditary are often confused. They have slightly different meanings.
Congenital means those traits, marks or defects that one develops before or during birth. Congenital defects, for example, are not inherited from one’s parents. The baby develops them while it is still in the womb or during birth.
Left-handedness, for example, is a congenital trait. You are born with it; however, you didn’t inherit it from your parents. Left-handed children can be born to right-handed parents.
More examples are given below.
- Birth marks are congenital. (You don’t necessarily have the same birth marks as your parents.)
- If an expectant mother doesn’t take care of herself, her baby can develop congenital defects.
Hereditary refers to those characteristics that one inherits from one’s parents at the time of conception.
- Green eyes are a hereditary characteristic of Ann’s family.
- Hemophilia is hereditary.