family

noun
fam·​i·​ly | \ ˈfam-lē How to pronounce family (audio) , ˈfa-mə-\
plural families

Definition of family

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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
3a : a group of persons of common ancestry : clan
b : a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock : race
4a : 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
6a : 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

family

adjective

Definition of family (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from family

Noun

familyhood \ ˈfam-​lē-​ˌhu̇d How to pronounce familyhood (audio) , ˈfa-​mə-​ \ noun

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.

Examples of family in a Sentence

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 shade distribution offers 20 options within five shade families — light, medium, tan, dark, and deep — with options for golden (G), pink (P), and neutral (N) undertones, and depth of shade notated by a number from one to seven. Karina Hoshikawa, Allure, "Pür’s Love Your Selfie Foundation-Concealer Hybrid Comes in 100 Shades," 15 Apr. 2019 Zara Tindall, the daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, is Prince William's first cousin, making the day out an extended Windsor family event. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Prince William and Kate Middleton Take George and Charlotte for a Day Out with the Tindalls," 14 Apr. 2019 With her third child, Prince Louis, who was born on April 23, 2018, Kate's first postpartum appearance was at Harry and Meghan’s wedding on May 19, but that was not an official appearance, rather, a family event. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, "How Will Meghan Markle's Maternity Leave Compare with Queen Elizabeth's?," 14 Apr. 2019 Birmingham Public Schools in Michigan recently told families with students at Derby Middle School that students who are unvaccinated against measles have to stay out of school for 21 days after one child was diagnosed with the disease. Tawnell D. Hobbs, WSJ, "As Measles Spreads, Schools Turn Away Unvaccinated Students," 13 Apr. 2019 Their basic desires are the same—family, happiness, whatever. Joanna Saltz, House Beautiful, "Designers Reveal Their Unexpected Sources for Decorating Inspo," 12 Apr. 2019 The sport just seemed too pricey or inaccessible for many rural families. Melody Warnick, Woman's Day, "These Small-Town Heroes Are Helping Their Communities Thrive," 2 Apr. 2019 Located on the Corniche, the highway that skirts Doha’s bay, Nouvel’s museum stands near an early-20th-century palace where members of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family once lived. Julie Lasky, ELLE Decor, "ED First Look: The National Museum of Qatar," 26 Mar. 2019 In fact, about three-quarters of the people who take FMLA leave do it not for a newborn, but to either care for a family member or themselves. Bryce Covert, Glamour, "America Could at Last Pass Paid Leave. But What Good Is a Plan That Excludes Millions of Women?," 2 Apr. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of family

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Adjective

1602, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for family

Noun and Adjective

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about family

Statistics for family

Last Updated

21 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for family

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for family

family

noun

English Language Learners Definition of family

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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

English Language Learners Definition of family (Entry 2 of 2)

: of or relating to a family
: designed or suitable for both children and adults

family

noun
fam·​i·​ly | \ ˈfa-mə-lē How to pronounce family (audio) , ˈfam-lē\
plural families

Kids Definition of family

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.

family

noun
fam·​i·​ly | \ ˈfam-(ə-)lē How to pronounce family (audio) \
plural families

Medical Definition of family

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

Other Words from family

family adjective

Keep scrolling for more

family

noun
fam·​i·​ly | \ ˈfam-lē, ˈfa-mə- How to pronounce family (audio) \
plural families

Legal Definition of family

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.

Other Words from family

familial \ fə-​ˈmil-​yəl How to pronounce familial (audio) \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on family

What made you want to look up family? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!