I just stumbled across the following sentence in Brightness Falls by Jay McInerny:

Having until a month before been heir apparent, Russell was going to have to think seriously about getting a new job, or something.

I can't figure out the meaning of 'apparent' here, as an adjective, to which substantive does it belong?

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  • 1
    Hint: look up heir apparent. – The Photon Jul 22 '17 at 20:38
  • You should always consult an English language dictionary before asking a question about the meaning of a word or phrase. The phrase heir apparent is defined in at least 23 easily available online English dictionaries. – P. E. Dant Jul 22 '17 at 20:44

Heir apparent is a fixed phrase with a meaning that isn't obvious from its two parts.

From Wikipedia,

An heir apparent ... is a person who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting by the birth of another person.

  • But, the meaning is obvious from the parts. The heir apparent is the person who seems likely to inherit. The oddity is the old-fashioned word order. If there were no long-standing legal history of using that exact phrase, the modern phrasing could easily be "the apparent heir". – Gary Botnovcan Jul 22 '17 at 21:06
  • I don't think it's totally obvious. For example, when Elizabeth of Great Britain was apparently the heir, she was not the heir apparent, because if her parents had had a son, that son would have become the heir. – The Photon Jul 22 '17 at 21:17

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