fil·​ial ˈfi-lē-əl How to pronounce filial (audio)
: of, relating to, or befitting a son or daughter
filial obedience
filial love
: having or assuming the relation of a child or offspring
The new village has a filial relationship with the original settlement.
ˈfi-lē-ə-lē How to pronounce filial (audio)

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Filial Has Familial Origins

Filial comes from Latin filius, meaning "son," and filia, "daughter"; in English, it applies to any gender. 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.

Examples of filial in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web My ambivalence springs in part from filial loyalty—my father, Justice Antonin Scalia, was Chevron’s foremost champion before souring on such deference doctrines in his last years. Eugene Scalia, WSJ, 9 Jan. 2024 Rustin’s relation to Randolph was as powerful and filial, in its way, as Malcolm’s to Elijah Muhammad, although the instruction was in the pragmatics of politics, not the mythology of race. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023 Like a dorsal fin poking over the waves, their filial conflicts suggest the story’s dark undertow. Jesse Green, New York Times, 10 Aug. 2023 Preserving the body is considered an important aspect of filial piety within the context of Confucianism, and that precept encourages long hair, forbids suicide and is interpreted as prohibiting tattoos. Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times, 24 Nov. 2023 More out of filial duty than love, Takashi flies out, accompanied by an insistent Yuki — one of the film’s background pleasures is the description of their marital relationship and the subtle way the unfolding tragedy of his father’s condition may help to strengthen it. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 3 Oct. 2023 May 15, 2023 Advertisement Traditionally, offspring have been expected to support their elders and demonstrate filial piety above all else. Stephanie Yang, Los Angeles Times, 28 Sep. 2023 Other characters began to appear more regularly, too, like her grandmother, whom Li dotes on with saccharine filial piety, as well as a few other friends from the village. Oscar Schwartz, The New Yorker, 4 Aug. 2023 About half of the states have filial responsibility laws. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 15 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'filial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near filial

Cite this Entry

“Filial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: of, relating to, or befitting a son or daughter
filial obedience
: being or having the relation of a child or offspring

More from Merriam-Webster on filial

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