1. Of or relating to a condition that is present at birth, as a result of either heredity or environmental influences: a congenital heart defect; congenital syphilis.
2. Usage Problem Being or having an essential characteristic as if by nature; inherent or inveterate: "the congenital American optimism that denies conflicts and imagines all stories having happy endings" (Robert J. Samuelson).
[From Latin congenitus : com-, com- + genitus, born, past participle of gignere, to bear; see genə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The Usage Panel is divided evenly on the use of congenital to mean "inveterate." In our 2008 survey, only 50 percent accepted this word in a sentence with the phrase "the most congenital skeptic."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.