Definition of heirloom in US English:



  • 1A valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.

    • ‘If you look after your tools, they'll look after you and maybe some day, you can pass them down to the next generation of enthusiastic gardeners like family heirlooms.’
    • ‘They will happily cast their eye over any old family heirlooms, household treasures or car boot bargains.’
    • ‘The interior contains a remarkable collection of family heirlooms and works of art.’
    • ‘Scores of people lost sentimental engagement rings and irreplaceable family heirlooms.’
    • ‘Although not hugely valuable, they were both treasured family heirlooms.’
    • ‘I have been forced to sell family heirlooms like our vintage cars.’
    • ‘Some include journal entries or family heirlooms such as recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.’
    • ‘Their affair is going nowhere until he asks her to restore a family heirloom that may contain the key to a centuries-old murder mystery.’
    • ‘Archival records such as these family heirlooms, handed down from one generation to another, stand as evidence of a rich past that has impact for everyone.’
    • ‘He later discovered two travelling clocks and a signet ring, family heirlooms worth £700 and £200 in cash were missing.’
    • ‘The situation hasn't quite reached the stage where pre-bookings are handed down through the generations like family heirlooms, but getting a pitch at peak times is difficult.’
    • ‘The sword was a family heirloom, passed down through the generations to the eldest child.’
    • ‘His house had been burgled, windows smashed, doors broken and family heirlooms stolen.’
    • ‘It is filled with antiques, family heirlooms and portraits.’
    • ‘She looked around the room slowly, her eyes taking in everything from the expensive paintings and family heirlooms dotted around the room, to the Oriental rug.’
    • ‘Hundreds of Essex residents queued from early today to have their family heirlooms identified and valued by a team of TV experts.’
    • ‘No doubt this book will become a treasured heirloom in the Murphy family.’
    • ‘These precious ornaments are often passed down through the generations as family heirlooms.’
    • ‘My grandmother would let me play around in her kitchen with our family heirloom civil war sword.’
    • ‘There are others who have suggested he sell off the valuable collection of art and other family heirlooms, but he doubts they would raise the required amount.’
    bequest, inheritance, heritage, bequeathal, bestowal, benefaction, endowment, gift, patrimony, settlement, birthright, provision
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    1. 1.1North American as modifier Denoting a traditional variety of plant or breed of animal which is not associated with large-scale commercial agriculture.
      ‘his garden is filled with heirloom vegetables’
      ‘free-range heirloom pork’
      • ‘Preserving heirloom vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers keeps the world's available genetic diversity alive.’
      • ‘Every year I visit apple orchards in one or the other region and taste as many heirloom varieties as I can.’
      • ‘You must order a few sides, including the farm-fresh pickled veggies and roasted heirloom carrots.’
      • ‘I plant heirloom vegetables in my garden because I'm partial to the complex flavors of such things as black tomatoes, purple carrots and candy-striped beets.’
      • ‘The company offers more than 600 varieties of organically grown, mostly heirloom seeds for gardeners and more than 100 types of seeds in bulk amounts for farmers.’
      • ‘Nearby is the kitchen garden with its heirloom vegetables, as well as the formal Victorian gardens and tennis court.’
      • ‘There's been a reawakening of interest in heirloom melons among home gardeners.’
      • ‘On their farm in Carmel Valley, Jon and Nancy embrace the seasons and grow unusual and heirloom vegetables.’
      • ‘Heirloom tomatoes are making a comeback in farmers' markets and natural food stores as people rediscover how good a real tomato tastes.’
      • ‘Pollen from genetically altered crops can spread to heirloom crops, threatening their biological integrity.’
      • ‘In spring of 1988, I planted 100 blueberry bushes, 24 heirloom apple trees and 500 raspberry plants.’
      • ‘He is dedicated to organic growing principles and supplying gardeners with great heirloom vegetable varieties.’
      • ‘At the KJ wine center, there are four acres of organic gardens where we grow 175 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes.’
      • ‘Many old garden roses, or heirloom roses, bloom only once a season.’
      • ‘Many heirloom varieties are the great-grandparent plants of modern cultivars.’
      • ‘One of the biggest trends over the last 20 years has been the rediscovery of heirloom plants, both ornamental and edible.’
      • ‘Growing heirloom seeds can be an adventure since they don't always produce uniform, picture-perfect results.’
      • ‘I have a friend who grows Italian heirloom vegetables as a link to his Italian ancestry.’
      • ‘There are many good reasons to incorporate more heirloom varieties into your gardening.’
      • ‘She plants heirloom varieties whenever possible - they adapt better to the challenges of climate than hybrids.’


Late Middle English: from heir + loom (which formerly had the senses ‘tool, heirloom’).