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

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 Paveena, founder and chairwoman of her own foundation, said that any young child asked by her parents to get married would agree out of filial devotion. Eileen Ng, The Seattle Times, "Malaysia investigates marriage of man to 11-year-old girl," 2 July 2018 But for most of the play, Mr. Dodin emphasizes the lovers and the filial duty that sways them both — Ferdinand (Danila Kozlovsky) in warped ways, the teenage Luise (Elizaveta Boyarskaya) in pure ones. Laura Collins-hughes, New York Times, "Review: Pulled Apart by ‘Love and Intrigue’," 8 June 2018 With Lele growing up far from the Kingdom, surrounded by a society that has already cast her parents out, Li and Peng worry whether filial devotion or community prejudice will fill their daughter’s heart. Charlie Campbell / Kunming, Time, "Finding Love in the Kingdom of the Little People," 1 June 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

23 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for filial

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

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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

Spanish Central: Translation of filial

Nglish: Translation of filial for Spanish Speakers

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