family

1 of 2

noun

fam·​i·​ly ˈfam-lē How to pronounce family (audio)
ˈfa-mə-
plural families
1
a
: the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children
also : any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family
a single-parent family
b
: spouse and children
want to spend more time with my family
2
: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head : household
3
a
: a group of persons of common ancestry : clan
b
: a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock
4
a
: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation : fellowship
b
: the staff of a high official (such as the President)
5
: a group of things related by common characteristics: such as
a
: a closely related series of elements or chemical compounds
b
: a group of soils with similar chemical and physical properties (such as texture, pH, and mineral content) that comprise a category ranking above the series and below the subgroup in soil classification
c
: a group of related languages descended from a single ancestral language
6
a
: a group of related plants or animals forming a category ranking above a genus and below an order and usually comprising several to many genera
b in livestock breeding
(1)
: the descendants or line of a particular individual especially of some outstanding female
(2)
: an identifiable strain within a breed
7
: a set of curves or surfaces whose equations differ only in parameters
8
: a unit of a crime syndicate (such as the Mafia) operating within a geographical area
familyhood noun

family

2 of 2

adjective

1
: of or relating to a family (see family entry 1)
2
: designed or suitable for both children and adults
family restaurants
family movies

Did you know?

What is a family?

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.

Example Sentences

Noun The disappearance of decent-paying low-skilled jobs over the last 30 years makes it virtually impossible for a young high-school dropout to successfully support a family on a legitimate income. Karen De Witt, Essence, August 1994 A defendant in a racketeering trial was described yesterday as a Mafia captain who had carried out a plot to kill three rivals in the Bonanno crime family. Arnold H. Lubasch, New York Times, 30 Apr. 1987 Nobody ever came to the farm—through "the big gate," a mile off on the pike—except kin and a family named Rawls: a widow with two daughters and a son, my only playmate. Robert Penn Warren, Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back, 1980 It was quite an understood thing in the family that Lord Fawn must marry money. Anthony Trollope, The Eustace Diamonds, 1871 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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The women in her family worked in the cotton mills. Latria Graham, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Dec. 2022 The war on drugs ‘impacted my life, impacted my family life. Ed Stannard, Hartford Courant, 21 Nov. 2022 Johnson and his family moved to Washington, D.C., near the end of World War II after his father was transferred to the Pentagon. Arkansas Online, 21 Nov. 2022 Join JJ and his family in this unique interactive live musical adventure bursting with special effects, new songs and dances. Luann Gibbs, The Enquirer, 21 Nov. 2022 Frida, a 3-month-old pug, has been reunited with her owner after being stolen from her family’s home more than a month ago. Michelle Del Rey, San Antonio Express-News, 21 Nov. 2022 The Deadpool star opened up about expanding his family with Lively during a recent red-carpet interview with Entertainment Tonight. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 21 Nov. 2022 Rodgers grew up surrounded by celebrities knocking back scotch in her family’s swanky homes in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and Connecticut. Charles Mcnultytheater Critic, Los Angeles Times, 21 Nov. 2022 The practices around these items can offer a form of resilience and mooring against the shifting tides of family life. Kendra Nordin Beato, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 Nov. 2022
Adjective
Clark was Norwood neighborhood president when developers pitched the proposal for an amphitheater and multi-family housing on the site. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al, 31 Oct. 2022 During the same period, there were 19 fire deaths in multi-family homes across the state, according to media coverage collected by the National Fire Incident Reporting System. Hartford Courant, 28 Aug. 2022 Even so, Bibb’s tiered approach will go forward for what many consider to be the most consequential use of tax abatement: the new construction of large, multi-family apartment buildings, like those that have shot up in Ohio City in recent years. Courtney Astolfi, cleveland, 25 May 2022 This mid-tier system is perfectly sized for single and multi-family homes. Mike Richard, Men's Health, 23 Sep. 2022 Cities larger than 25,000 are required to allow even more types of multi-family housing. oregonlive, 3 June 2022 The Lyric at Keller Center Stage multi-family complex, and a community lawn that will provide a venue for live music events. Steve Brown, Dallas News, 17 Aug. 2021 Sandy Springs, Fulton County and now Cobb County are seeking to crack down on multi-family housing conditions partially in response to the AJC’s investigation. Taylor Croft, ajc, 2 Sep. 2022 Market-rate, multi-family housing will include rental units ranging from studios to three bedrooms. San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Noun and Adjective

Middle English familie, from Latin familia household (including servants as well as kin of the householder), from famulus servant

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Adjective

1602, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of family was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near family

Cite this Entry

“Family.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/family. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

family

noun

fam·​i·​ly
ˈfam-(ə-)lē
plural families
1
: a group of individuals living under one roof and under one head
2
: a group of persons who come from the same ancestor
3
: a group of things having common characteristics
especially : a closely related series of elements or chemical compounds
4
a
: a social group composed of one or two parents and their children
b
: a social group different from but considered equal to the traditional family
5
: a group of related plants or animals ranking in biological classification above a genus and below an order

Medical Definition

family

noun

fam·​i·​ly ˈfam-(ə-)lē How to pronounce family (audio)
plural families
1
: the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children
also : any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family
a single-parent family
2
: a group of related plants or animals forming a category ranking above a genus and below an order and usually comprising several to many genera
family adjective

Legal Definition

family

noun

fam·​i·​ly ˈfam-lē, ˈfa-mə- How to pronounce family (audio)
plural families
1
: a group of individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption
2
: a group of usually related individuals who live together under common household authority and especially who have reciprocal duties to each other

Note: The interpretation of the word family in a law context depends upon the area of the law concerned (as contract or zoning law), the purpose of the document (as a statute or contract) in which it is used, and the facts of the case. Often for zoning purposes, the occupants of a group home are considered a family if the organization is like that of a family or if the home is going to be a permanent rather than a transitional residence for the occupants.

familial adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on family

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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