In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique, that has been passed down for generations through family members.

The term originated with the historical principle of an heirloom in English law, a chattel which by immemorial usage was regarded as annexed by inheritance to a family estate. Loom originally meant a tool. Such genuine heirlooms were almost unknown by the beginning of the twentieth century. [Anon.] (1911) " [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Heirloom Heirloom] ", "Encyclopaedia Britannica"]

English legal history

Any owner of a genuine heirloom could dispose of it during his lifetime, but he could not bequeath it by will away from the estate. If he died intestate it went to his heir-at-law, and if he devised the estate it went to the devisee. The word subsequently acquired a secondary meaning, applied to furniture, pictures, "etc.", vested in trustees to hold on trust for the person for the time being entitled to the possession of a settled house. Such things were more properly called settled chattels. As of 1 January 1997, no further settled land can be created and the remaining pre-existing settlements have a declining importance in English law. [Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, s.2]

An heirloom in the strict sense was made by family custom, not by settlement. A settled chattel could be sold under the direction of the court, and the money arising under such sale is capital money. [Settled Land Act 1882] The court would only sanction such a sale if it could be shown that it was to the benefit of all parties concerned and if the article proposed to be sold was of unique or historical character. The court had regard to the intention of the settlor and the wishes of the remainder men. ["Re Hope", "Dr Cello v. Hope" [1899] 2 Ch. 679]



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  • heirloom — heir‧loom [ˈeəluːm ǁ ˈer ] noun [countable] a valuable object that has been owned by a family for many years and that is passed, for example, from grandfather to father to son: • The clock is a family heirloom. * * * heirloom UK US /ˈeəluːm/ noun …   Financial and business terms

  • heirloom — index bequest, hereditament Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 heirloom …   Law dictionary

  • heirloom — ► NOUN ▪ a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations. ORIGIN from HEIR(Cf. ↑heirship) + LOOM(Cf. ↑loom) (in the former senses tool, heirloom ) …   English terms dictionary

  • Heirloom — Heir loom , n. [Heir + loom, in its earlier sense of implement, tool. See {Loom} the frame.] Any furniture, movable, or personal chattel, which by law or special custom descends to the heir along with the inheritance; any piece of personal… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • heirloom — early 15c., ayre lome, a hybrid from HEIR (Cf. heir) + LOOM (Cf. loom) in its original but now otherwise obsolete sense of implement, tool. Technically, some piece of property that by will or custom passes down with the real estate …   Etymology dictionary

  • heirloom — [n] something inherited, often antique antique, bequest, birthright, gift, heritage, inheritance, legacy, patrimony, reversion; concept 337 …   New thesaurus

  • heirloom — [er′lo͞om΄] n. [ME heir lome: see HEIR & LOOM1] 1. a piece of personal property that goes to an heir along with an estate 2. any treasured possession handed down from generation to generation …   English World dictionary

  • heirloom — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ family ▪ precious HEIRLOOM + VERB ▪ be passed down, come down ▪ The brooch is a family heirloom which came down to her from her grandmother …   Collocations dictionary

  • heirloom — /air loohm /, n. 1. a family possession handed down from generation to generation. 2. Law. property neither personal nor real that descends to the heir of an estate as part of the real property. adj. 3. being an old variety that is being… …   Universalium

  • heirloom — n. a family; priceless heirloom * * * [ eəluːm] priceless heirloom a family …   Combinatory dictionary

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