Definition of family
- a single-parent family
- want to spend more time with my family
There were a lot of families at the circus.
The show is fun for the whole family.
a death in the family
There are several doctors on his mother's side of the family.
She wants to spend more time with her family.
After his father's death he became the head of the family.
She's a friend of the family.
He spent a quiet evening at home with family.
trying to find a balance between work and family
He's devoted to his wife and family.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'family.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
The answer to the question “what does family mean?” is both difficult to answer and highly subjective. The word has shifted its meaning considerably since it entered our language, currently contains many different senses, and in at least one of these senses may signify different things to different people. The earliest uses of family denoted “a group of persons in the service of an individual,” a sense that is now archaic. Although this early meaning may seem far afield from the way that most of us use family today, it is not surprising when we consider that the word comes from the Latin familia, which meant “household,” a designation that included both servants and relatives.
In modern use family may refer to one of a number of different groups of people or things collectively, such as chemical compounds, related languages, plants and animals, and people who may or may not share ancestry. Family is often encountered in legal use, but even within the jargon of the law it is not restricted to a single meaning. In many legal contexts family denotes “individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption,” but in others the definition may be somewhat broader, encompassing groups of individuals not related by these things.
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
: of or relating to a family
: designed or suitable for both children and adults
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