A dynasty is a sequence of rulers considered members of the same family. Historians traditionally consider many sovereign states' history within a framework of successive dynasties, e.g., China, Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire. Much of European political history is dominated by dynasties such as the Carolingians, the Capetians, the Bourbons, the Habsburgs, the Stuarts, the Hohenzollerns and the Romanovs. 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 family members.
A dynasty is also often called a house (e.g., House of Saud and House of Windsor), and may be described as imperial, royal, ducal or comital depending upon the chief title borne by its rulers. Dynasty is also used to refer to the era during which a family reigned, as well as events, trends and artifacts of that period (e.g. "Ming dynasty vase"). In such cases, often "dynasty" is dropped, while the name is used adjectivally; e.g., Tudor style, Ottoman expansion, Romanov decadence, etc.
While contemporary English includes references to an array of prominent or influential families as dynasties, in much of the world, dynasty has been associated with monarchy and defined patrilineally. Kinship and inheritance were predominantly viewed and legally calculated through descent from a common ancestor in the male line. However, men descended from a dynasty through females have sometimes adopted the name of that dynasty while claiming its position or inheritance (e.g., House of Orange, House of Bagration, House of Habsburg-Lorraine.