fil·​ial | \ ˈfi-lē-əl How to pronounce filial (audio) , ˈfil-yəl\

Definition of filial

1 : of, relating to, or befitting a son or daughter filial obedience filial love
2 : having or assuming the relation of a child or offspring The new village has a filial relationship with the original settlement.

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Other Words from filial

filially \ ˈfi-​lē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce filially (audio) , ˈfil-​yə-​lē \ adverb

Filial Has Familial Origins

Filial is descended from Latin filius, meaning "son," and filia, meaning "daughter," and in English (where it has been used since at least the 14th century) it has always applied to both sexes. The word has long carried the dutiful sense "owed to a parent by a child," as found in such phrases as "filial respect" and "filial piety." These days it can also be used more generally for any emotion or behavior of a child to a parent. You might suspect that filia is also the source of the word filly, meaning "a young female horse" or "a young girl," but it isn't. Rather, filly is from Old Norse fylja.

Examples of filial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Using the language of familial bonds is a powerful way to instill political fealty in a culture that enshrines filial piety. Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, "Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Backs Down, but the Protests Continue," 17 June 2019 Confucius stressed the cultivation of personal qualities such as benevolence, reciprocity, and filial piety. National Geographic, "Who was Confucius?," 26 Mar. 2019 After she is murdered, two copies of her will are found—one favoring the son, the other the rental relatives—dramatizing the tension between received pieties about filial love and the economic relations that bind parents and children. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, "Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry," 23 Apr. 2018 There is also a strong dose of filial loyalty involved. Chris Jennings, WSJ, "‘Mother American Night’ Review: The Opening of a Western Mind," 14 June 2018 Another became an enduring symbol of filial devotion, her milestone birthdays celebrated throughout the empire. Susan Delson, WSJ, "At Museums, a Vanished Chinese Realm of Female Power," 20 July 2018 In the opening story, a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop navigates his filial relationship with his Vietnamese father who has come for a visit. Nicole Lamy, New York Times, "Dear Match Book: Hidden Gems," 27 Mar. 2018 Rarely has such a fevered outpouring of filial rage and a son’s hopeless love been channeled into one brief document. Francine Prose, WSJ, "Five Best: Francine Prose on Family Troubles," 12 July 2018 For three pages, in panels of different sizes, Mr. Ditko depicted Spider-Man having an existential battle, practically giving up before remembering his filial duty to his aunt and uncle. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Steve Ditko, enigmatic comic artist and co-creator of ‘Spider-Man,’ dies at 90," 7 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'filial.' 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 filial

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for filial

Middle English, from Late Latin filialis, from Latin filius son — more at feminine

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Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for filial

The first known use of filial was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of filial

formal : of or relating to a son or daughter : appropriate for a son or daughter


fil·​ial | \ ˈfi-lē-əl How to pronounce filial (audio) , ˈfil-yəl\

Kids Definition of filial

: relating to or suitable for a son or daughter filial affection

More from Merriam-Webster on filial

Spanish Central: Translation of filial

Nglish: Translation of filial for Spanish Speakers

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something desired as essential

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