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
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

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Other Words from family

Noun

familyhood \ ˈfam-​lē-​ˌhu̇d How to pronounce family (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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Gonzalez had a 4-year-old son, also named Mario, and was the main caretaker of his brother, who has autism and turned 23 on Tuesday, his family said. Olga R. Rodriguez And Don Thompson, Star Tribune, "Family denounces police custody death of man in California," 29 Apr. 2021 The family of Brown said Tuesday an independent autopsy showed he was shot five times, including once in the back of the head. Marlene Lenthang, ABC News, "Protesters decrying police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. arrested for breaking curfew," 29 Apr. 2021 Gonzalez had a 4-year-old son, also named Mario, and was the main caretaker of his brother, who has autism and turned 23 on Tuesday, his family said. CBS News, "Police say Mario Gonzalez had a "medical emergency" before dying. His family says video shows a "really different" story.," 29 Apr. 2021 Gonzalez left a 4-year-old son and was the main caretaker of his 22-year-old brother, who has autism, his family said. Winston Gieseke, USA TODAY, "In California: Disneyland to reopen Friday; some state residents struggle to get a COVID vaccine," 29 Apr. 2021 Rankin and his cousin were out of surgery Tuesday and were talking, his family said. Jeremy Beaman, Washington Examiner, "Chicago boy, 13, shot one block from where he previously helped 10-year-old gunshot victim," 28 Apr. 2021 Gonzalez had a 4-year-old son and also was the main caretaker of his 22-year-old brother, who has autism, his family said. Juliet Williams, Anchorage Daily News, "Bodycam video shows Latino man being pinned by California officer for more than 5 minutes as he died," 28 Apr. 2021 Louie — a World War II veteran and the first person of color to be licensed as an architect in Utah — died Wednesday, April 21, his family said. Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah’s first person of color licensed as an architect designed the soaring roof of St. Ann’s and the imposing State Office Building," 28 Apr. 2021 Gonzalez left a 4-year-old son and also was the main caretaker of his 22-year-old brother, who has autism, his family said. NBC News, "Police video shows California man died after officers held him," 28 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective For an investor, this means purchasing a multi-family home and occupying a unit on the property. Steve Byrne, Forbes, "How To Raise Capital For Your Real Estate Projects," 28 Apr. 2021 The council also approved amendments to its 2021-2029 General Plan Housing Element update, including adding a smoke-free ordinance for multi-family housing and removing the Ponto property. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, "How they voted, April 11," 11 Apr. 2021 Even for the Peninsula — an international center of tech and biotech jobs that has been hostile to multi-family housing — Millbrae has remained stagnant for decades. J.k. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, "Millbrae blocks housing deal at historic El Rancho Inn," 14 Apr. 2021 Nannies were dismissed en masse in the early days of the pandemic, as parents working in offices were sent home and many families were reluctant to allow a non-family member into their home. NBC News, "Nannies look back on a tumultuous year, from family moves to remote schooling to lost wages," 9 Apr. 2021 The blaze is now out in the three-story multi-family building on Sparkle Drive. Jennifer Edwards Baker, The Enquirer, "Some jump to escape fire in 30-unit apartment building; 2 seriously injured," 30 Mar. 2021 The future of two multi-family houses in the Rockville section of Vernon is uncertain after they were heavily damaged Monday in a fire that displaced 25 people and killed at least three pets. Christine Dempsey, courant.com, "Rockville houses unlivable after fire that displaced 25 and killed three pets," 30 Mar. 2021 Commercial investors are favoring multi-family housing over office or retail properties during the pandemic, said Christine Espenshade, a vice chairman with Newmark, the brokerage firm that handled the sale of the two properties. Lorraine Mirabella, baltimoresun.com, "Kushner apartment company is selling 10 Baltimore-area properties," 2 Mar. 2021 As Fort Worth’s population grows, a group of City Council members are calling for a moratorium on some new apartment developments, citing concerns the city has become over-saturated with multi-family housing. Dallas News, "A moratorium on new apartments? Some Fort Worth city leaders think the city’s over-saturated," 4 Jan. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for family

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for family

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Family.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/family. Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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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

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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 family (audio) \ adjective

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Comments on family

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