patriot

noun
pa·​tri·​ot | \ ˈpā-trē-ət How to pronounce patriot (audio) , -ˌät, chiefly British ˈpa-trē-ət\

Definition of patriot

: one who loves and supports his or her country … praised him as a … motivated patriot who was fearless in the quest to preserve American security.— W. R. Hearst, Jr.

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Synonyms for patriot

Synonyms

loyalist

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More on the Meaning of Patriot

The word patriot signifies a person who loves his or her country and is ready to boldly support and defend it. That meaning has endured since the word's arrival in English in the 16th century, but it has not marched through the years unchallenged.

Ultimately derived from Greek patrios, meaning "of one’s father," patriot entered English via French patriote—meaning "fellow countryman" or "compatriot"—during a time of political unrest in western Europe that was characterized by infighting among fellow countrymen—especially among those of the Protestant and Catholic faiths.

For much of the 17th century, words like good were attached to patriot to distinguish patriots who shared both a love of country and a common allegiance from those having opposing beliefs and loyalties: to be deemed a "good patriot" was to be a lover of country who agreed on political and/or religious matters with whoever was doing the deeming.

The Catholiques were knowne good Patriots under our former Kings.
— Henry Hammond, A view of some exceptions which have been made by a Romanist to the Lord Viscount Falkland's discourse…, 1646

Patriot was used to mean "good patriot" without modification more frequently by the end of the 17th century, but it tended to apply to a supporter of the ruling monarchy.

A Patriot, both the King and Country serves; Prerogative, and Privilege preserves.
— John Dryden, Fables, Ancient and Modern, 1700

Another effect of the tumultuous times was the development of a derogatory use of patriot to refer to hypocritical patriots: people who claimed devotion to one's country and government but whose actions or beliefs belied such devotion. This ultimately led to the discrediting of the loyalty and steadfastness associated with the word patriot.

The years leading up to the American Revolutionary War further propagated the notion of patriot as a name for a seditious rebel against the monarchy. American writers of the 18th century, however, heartily embraced the word to define the colonists who took action against British control. As tensions continued to escalate, a new meaning of patriot came to the forefront, referring to a person who advocates or promotes the independence of their land or people from the country of which they are a colony. Benjamin Franklin provides an early record of this use.

It should be no Wonder … if among so many Thousand true Patriots as New England contains there should be found even Twelve Judases.
— Benjamin Franklin, letter, 7 July 1773

In the end, the patriots won the war and, centuries after America’s Declaration of Independence, patriot has held its place of honor in the English language as the meritorious name for the brave men and women of the armed forces who defend the rights and freedoms of their country. Stripped of all past disparagement, the word has returned to its original meaning: "one who loves his or her country."

Today, active fighting or resistance is not a requirement to being a patriot: a person only needs a strong sense of love for one’s country.

Examples of patriot in a Sentence

He was a great patriot who devoted his life to serving his country. the contention that true patriots would be willing to do anything for their country

Recent Examples on the Web

The tavern, which fronts the Cape Fear River, was probably too small to have served as a major gathering place for patriots, or have been a brothel, as some have speculated. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "‘Seditious’ Pressed Glass Jewel Found in 18th-Century North Carolina Tavern," 10 July 2019 On the part of the more zealous American patriots like Thomas Jefferson and Noah Webster, the goal was national unity fostered by a conviction that Americans now ought to own and possess their own language. Time, "Americans and Brits Have Been Fighting Over the English Language for Centuries. Here’s How It Started," 11 June 2019 Much like any other state, Yugoslavia trained its citizens by way of public rituals to be patriots, taught them to be enthusiastically obedient. Aleksandar Hemon, The New Yorker, "My Mother and the Failed Experiment of Yugoslavia," 5 June 2019 Pioneered by patriots Flag Day’s national debut came in 1916, almost two centuries—and more than 20 designs—after the flag’s adoption in the United States. Claire Wolters, National Geographic, "Flag Day's long—and surprising—history explained," 14 June 2019 The Continental flag with its Liberty Tree insignia came from the Massachusetts Colony where patriots met under the original tree in Cambridge to plan the revolution. San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: Flag Day," 14 June 2019 Thomas Paxton in 1813, a Revolutionary War patriot who dined with General George Washington as one of the officers of the day at Valley Forge on Christmas Day in 1777. Rob Geiger/share, Cincinnati.com, "Loveland Legacy Foundation partners with Ramsey-Paxton Cemetery to get last of funding," 4 June 2019 Some churches have had to put up barriers to keep patriot groups members off their property. Daniel González, azcentral, "Lawsuit accuses 'patriot' groups of harassing churches aiding migrant families," 11 Jan. 2019 The American and French patriots of World War I embody the timeless virtues of our two Republics: Honor and courage. Vivian Salama, WSJ, "Macron Sounds Warning on Nationalism as Leaders Mark Armistice Day," 11 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'patriot.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of patriot

1577, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for patriot

Middle French patriote compatriot, from Late Latin patriota, from Greek patriōtēs, from patria lineage, from patr-, patēr father

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More Definitions for patriot

patriot

noun

English Language Learners Definition of patriot

: a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country

patriot

noun
pa·​tri·​ot | \ ˈpā-trē-ət How to pronounce patriot (audio) \

Kids Definition of patriot

: a person who loves his or her country and strongly supports it

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More from Merriam-Webster on patriot

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with patriot

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for patriot

Spanish Central: Translation of patriot

Nglish: Translation of patriot for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of patriot for Arabic Speakers

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