What is the difference between inherent and innate? I did a quick google but I would like a more concrete comparison and examples.

This initially came up from trying to decide on the correct description when talking about the nature of humanity (good/bad) inherently good/bad verses innately good/bad. I feel like inherently sounds better but I don't know why and need more information for the future.

Found this but it isn't quite what I want: Is there a subtle difference between "inherent" and "intrinsic"?

  • The dictionary definitions bear out the difference in sufficient detail. See also some usage examples.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 15:26
  • There's quite a lot of difference.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 15:26
  • @Kris - which one are you looking at? Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 15:28
  • I guess... maybe... innate seems to deal with a property/attribute in kind of a local scope while inherent seems to be more of a global value.........? Innate seems almost like an individual trait.... this dog is innately (by its nature) gentle. And inherent seems like it is for more basic instinct of a group... birds inherently (by nature) know to migrate. I could be totally wrong. This is why I'm asking. Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 15:34
  • Please consult a dictionary for this. Innate means is born with. Inherent means is an essential part of or is implied by.
    – Drew
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 16:18

1 Answer 1


Innate has a few definitions, including one that lists it as a synonym of inherent, but the summary definition is "existing from the time a person or animal is born". In contrast, inherent is defined as "belonging to the basic nature of someone or something" or "involved in the constitution or essential character of something"

The connotations are very different here: to say a trait is innate is implying you were born with that trait, similar to saying someone is "a natural" as something. On the other hand, if you have a trait that is inherent, you would not be you without it; it is essential to the definition of whoever/whatever is described as having that trait.

For example, if we were to say "compassion is an innate trait of humanity", we are implying that all of humanity is born with compassion. If instead we say "compassion is an inherent trait of humanity", we are implying that being compassionate is essential to being human, and that without compassion, you don't have humanity.

  • this sentence did it for me... if you have a trait that is inherent, you would not be you without it. Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 16:26

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