A dynasty (
US: /) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,
 usually in the context of a
monarchical system but sometimes also appearing in
republics. The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "
 which may be
comital", etc., depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members.
periodize the histories of many
sovereign states, such as
Ancient Egypt, the
Carolingian Empire and
Imperial China, using a framework of successive dynasties. As such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the
era during which the family reigned and to describe events, trends, and artifacts of that period ("a
Ming-dynasty vase"). The word "dynasty" itself is often dropped from such adjectival references ("a
Until the 19th century, it was taken for granted that a legitimate function of a
monarch was to aggrandize his dynasty: that is, to increase the
territory, wealth, and power of his family members.
 The longest-surviving dynasty in the world is the
Imperial House of Japan, the
Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC.
Dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned
patrilineally, such as under the
Salic law. Succession through a daughter when permitted was considered to establish a new dynasty in her husband's ruling house. However, some states in Africa (
Balobedu), determined descent
matrilineally, while rulers have at other times adopted the name of their mother's dynasty when coming into her inheritance.
Less frequently, a monarchy has alternated or been rotated, in a multidynastic (or polydynastic) system – that is, the most senior living members of parallel dynasties, at any point in time, constitute the line of succession.
The word "dynasty" is sometimes used informally for people who are not rulers but, for example, members of a family with influence and power in other areas, such as a series of successive owners of a major company. It is also extended to unrelated people such as major poets of the same school or various rosters of a single sports team.