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 ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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