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 The band split up in the late 2000s over the long-running filial conflict between Noel Gallagher — the band’s songwriter — and Liam Gallagher, its lead singer. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "Beyoncé Amps Up ‘Savage,’ and 12 More New Songs," 2 May 2020 But Interior Minister Horst Seehofer approved a decision by border police to include filial visits on Mother's Day to the list. Fox News, "Germany sees rising coronavirus infection rate, lockdown protests days after easing restrictions," 11 May 2020 In other cases, Communist commitment stems from a Freudian excess of filial devotion, as in the case of Belle Rothman: Belle was the daughter of Max Rothman: cigar-maker and Communist. Sophie Pinkham, The New Republic, "How Vivian Gornick Reinvigorated Political Writing," 1 May 2020 Gethin Anthony gives some shadings to Jack Brennan, an FBI agent with a filial devotion to Desmond Harrington's Louis Freeh, but the character is still left feeling mighty composite-y. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Manhunt: Deadly Games': TV Review," 3 Feb. 2020 This is a hope that is fully in accord with the filial respect that faithful Catholics owe the Holy Father. Daniel J. Mahoney, National Review, "Pope Francis, Wayward Shepherd," 6 Feb. 2020 In honoring the recollections and experiences of his grandfather, Mendes remains trapped in the narrow emotional range of filial piety that, far from sparking his imagination, inhibits it. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "The Beauty of Sam Mendes’s “1917” Comes at a Cost," 7 Jan. 2020 The ceremony reflects filial piety and gives thanks to family members who came before them, according to the Korean Cultural Center in New York. Kristin Lam, USA TODAY, "Lunar New Year 2020: What are the traditions, and which Asian cultures celebrate it?," 26 Jan. 2020 His gruffness can’t conceal his compassionate heart for underdogs, as the movingly acted reckoning between Russell’s Walter and Hancock’s Junior makes clear with every resonant paternal stop and filial start. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Soulful, sorrowful performance propels Pulitzer winner ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’," 21 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for filial

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

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Last Updated

3 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Filial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for filial


How to pronounce filial (audio)

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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