CSS - Inheritance and Others


5 min read

As i started learning Cascading, Specificity, Inheritance. Though at a higher level it was bit clear, but i felt difficulty in understanding what does initial, unset do.

So i did some more learning, and learnt some more concepts in the process.

So an element Style is set based on 3 different origins -

  • User-agent origin

    default styles used by the user's web browser. This is Used when no styles are applied. So on an empty CSS you can still see HTML has some styling applied. You could see h1 text is bigger than h2 text, and color is black, and there are margins applied aswell. This is Chrome browsers default style defined that will be set to all its elements.

  • User Origin

    styles that user of the web browser has added using a developer tool or from a browser extension that automatically applies custom styles to content, such as Stylus or Stylish.

  • Author origin

    style origin which contains all of the styles which are part of the document, whether embedded within the HTML or loaded from an external stylesheet file.

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets

When there Is or No Specified Value

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 22.54.12.png

Other cases

h1 { 
    color: red; 
h1 { 
    color: blue; 

If you have set same attribute style at multiple lines, (for the same element both have same specificity score), the last one will be applied. This is Cascading.

#id-heading {
   color: green; 
.class-heading { 
    color: red; 
h1 { 
    color: blue; 

If you have set same attribute style via its element name or its class name or its id name, the one which has more specificity score to the element (here it is id name) will be applied. This is Specificity.

If we notice DOM Tree, there is a root, parents and children.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 12.42.34.png

So a style applied to a parent element is passed on to its children elements. This is inheritance.

Only Inherited Properties Ex: color, Font Size are passed on its children. Non-Inherited Properties Ex: border, width, margin, padding are NOT passed on to its children.

An element can have same style attribute set with different values at multiple lines or different css files. But only one style will be set.

Cascade, Specificity, Inheritance will work together to compute the final style for an element.

Inheritance is controlled by 4 different properties

  • inherit
  • initial
  • unset
  • revert

In the below examples we will be looking at color property and for <a> link element.

default style

In the below example, when there is no CSS styles mentioned, you can see browsers default style (i.e., user agent) being applied to .

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 13.42.32.png


In the below example, when inherit is set as a value to color property for <a> element, it inherits its parents color value. Red arrows shows the default style is crossed which means its value is overridden.

Brown color is applied.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 15.15.12.png


For color property, it's usually Black.

Initial value of a property is its initial value as listed in its definition table in CSS specification.

In the below example, you can see browser default for link is crossed and overridden.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 17.15.10.png


When you set unset as a value to inherited property, it will act as inherit, else if set to non-inherited property, it will act as initial.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 17.38.18.png

color is an inherited property, it will inherit value from its parent, here it is brown. padding is an non-inherited property, it will get initial value, which is 0px.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 17.59.06.png


As in the below example, When there is no style set, browsers default style is applied.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 22.02.06.png

When you set revert on a property, and if that element has no parent, then default style of the browser (i.e., user agent) will be applied.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 22.09.00.png When you set revert on a property for an element, and if its parent has a style, then parent style will be applied.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 22.07.42.png


The all is shorthand CSS property that resets all of an element's properties except unicode-bidi, direction, and CSS Custom Properties(variables). Ex: all: unset; all: inherit; all: initial; all: revert;

!important will override all the above and will become most specific rule.

.main {
    color: blue !important;

Specificity Score

Note: below info directly taken from mdn

The amount of specificity a selector has is measured using four different values - (thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones)

  • Thousands: Score one in this column if the declaration is inside a style attribute, aka inline styles. Such declarations don't have selectors, so their specificity is always 1000.
  • Hundreds: Score one in this column for each ID selector contained inside the overall selector.
  • Tens: Score one in this column for each class selector, attribute selector, or pseudo-class contained inside the overall selector.
  • Ones: Score one in this column for each element selector or pseudo-element contained inside the overall selector.

The universal selector (*), combinators (+, >, ~, ' '), and negation pseudo-class (:not) have specificity score of 0.

Screenshot 2020-12-29 at 23.24.02.png

/* specificity: 0101 */
#outer a {
    background-color: red;

/* specificity: 0201 */
#outer #inner a {
    background-color: blue;

/* specificity: 0104 */
#outer div ul li a {
    color: yellow;

/* specificity: 0113 */
#outer div ul .nav a {
    color: white;

/* specificity: 0024 */
div div li:nth-child(2) a:hover {
    border: 10px solid black;

/* specificity: 0023 */
div li:nth-child(2) a:hover {
    border: 10px dashed black;

/* specificity: 0033 */
div div .nav:nth-child(2) a:hover {
    border: 10px double black;

I think we both learned a bit from this post. cheers.