1

family

noun fam·i·ly \ ˈfam-lē , ˈfa-mə- \
Updated on: 12 Dec 2017

Definition of family

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 : race
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

play \ˈfam-lē-ˌhu̇d, ˈfa-mə-\ noun

Examples of family in a Sentence

  1. 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 WittEssenceAugust 1994
  2. 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. LubaschNew York Times30 Apr. 1987
  3. 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 WarrenJefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back1980
  4. It was quite an understood thing in the family that Lord Fawn must marry money. —Anthony TrollopeThe Eustace Diamonds1871
  5. There were a lot of families at the circus.

  6. The show is fun for the whole family.

  7. a death in the family

  8. There are several doctors on his mother's side of the family.

  9. She wants to spend more time with her family.

  10. After his father's death he became the head of the family.

  11. She's a friend of the family.

  12. He spent a quiet evening at home with family.

  13. trying to find a balance between work and family

  14. He's devoted to his wife and family.

Recent Examples of family from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of family

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


2

family

adjective

Definition of family

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

Origin and Etymology of family


FAMILY Defined for English Language Learners

family

noun

Definition of family for English Language Learners

  • : a group of people who are related to each other

  • : a person's children

  • : a group of related people including people who lived in the past


family

adjective

Definition of family for English Language Learners

  • : of or relating to a family

  • : designed or suitable for both children and adults


FAMILY Defined for Kids

family

noun fam·i·ly \ ˈfa-mə-lē , ˈfam-lē \

Definition of family for Students

plural families
1 : a social group made up of parents and their children
2 : a group of people who come from the same ancestor
  • You resemble your mother's side of the family.
3 : a group of people living together : household
4 : a group of things sharing certain characteristics
  • a family of languages
5 : a group of related living things (as plants or animals) that ranks above the genus and below the order in scientific classification
  • Domestic cats, lions, and tigers are some of the members of the cat family.

Medical Dictionary

family

noun fam·i·ly \ ˈfam-(ə-)lē \

medical Definition of family

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

Law Dictionary

family

noun fam·i·ly \ ˈfam-lē, ˈfa-mə- \

legal Definition of family

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

play \fə-ˈmil-yəl\ adjective


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