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.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from filial

filially \ ˈfi-​lē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce filial (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 Stevens is dutiful above all else, choosing his vocation over love, both romantic and filial. Rumaan Alam, The New Republic, 12 Apr. 2021 Notably, the writing categories are among the few in which this ode to an undersung screenwriter doesn’t appear, despite the fact that it was written by Jack Fincher, who died in 2003, and directed by his son, David, as a kind of filial offering. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 8 Apr. 2021 Chung felt the pangs of filial guilt and went to her trailer and apologized. E. Alex Jung, Vulture, 1 Mar. 2021 The trap of filial piety isn’t lost on Ditlevsen, but escaping a fate of low expectations and lower-paying jobs is never as simple as recognizing their cruel, gray facts. New York Times, 26 Jan. 2021 This is highlighted even more by the way Mishima draws attention to the filial bond in the penultimate sentence. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, 7 Sep. 2020 Both Shuggie and Agnes are also subject to the brutality of a cast of domineering men whose violence, both physical and emotional, never quite breaks the filial bond at the heart of the story. Liam Hess, Vogue, 8 Dec. 2020 In the Trump family at large, a father’s love was contingent on filial devotion, Mary L. Trump also said. Monica Hesse, Washington Post, 25 Oct. 2020 My brothers, meanwhile, were clever, sensitive boys, who had already accrued a bank of happy filial memories. Ed Caesar, The New Yorker, 17 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About filial

Time Traveler for filial

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About filial

Statistics for filial

Last Updated

23 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Filial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for filial



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

Nglish: Translation of filial for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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