noun pa·tri·arch \ˈpā-trē-ˌärk\

: a man who controls a family, group, or government

: an official (called a bishop) of very high rank in the Orthodox Church

Full Definition of PATRIARCH

a :  one of the scriptural fathers of the human race or of the Hebrew people
b :  a man who is father or founder
c (1) :  the oldest member or representative of a group
(2) :  a venerable old man
d :  a man who is head of a patriarchy
a :  any of the bishops of the ancient or Eastern Orthodox sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem or the ancient and Western see of Rome with authority over other bishops
b :  the head of any of various Eastern churches
c :  a Roman Catholic bishop next in rank to the pope with purely titular or with metropolitan jurisdiction
:  a Mormon of the Melchizedek priesthood empowered to perform the ordinances of the church and pronounce blessings within a stake or prescribed jurisdiction

Examples of PATRIARCH

  1. Our grandfather was the family's patriarch.
  2. The tribe's patriarch ruled for 20 years before his death.


Middle English patriarche, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin patriarcha, from Greek patriarchēs, from patria lineage (from patr-, patēr father) + -archēs -arch — more at father
First Known Use: 13th century

Other Anthropology Terms

ectomorph, ethnography, prehistory, yurt


Next Word in the Dictionary: patriarchalPrevious Word in the Dictionary: patria potestasAll Words Near: patriarch
May 22, 2015
nepotism Hear it
favoritism based on kinship
Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears