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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Both tell stories of filial piety, of conservative personal missions that are bound up with Zionism. Daniel Drake, The New York Review of Books, 5 Nov. 2022 Extended families no longer gather on holidays, ancestral homes are collapsing, and Confucian values like respect for education and filial duty are disappearing. Leslie T. Chang, The New York Review of Books, 21 Sep. 2022 Liu’s lifestyle is becoming commonplace in a country that has traditionally emphasized filial piety—respecting one’s elders like parents and grandparents—with bearing children as one important aspect. Yvonne Lau, Fortune, 17 Sep. 2022 Stream assumed his filial responsibilities in 2004, at a time when diversifying beyond oil and gas was becoming increasingly important to the family and the region. Wired, 29 July 2022 Since the holiday is all about filial piety (which is service and respect to one's parents, elders, and ancestors), there are several traditional practices associated with the day, as well as taboos. Corinne Sullivan, Woman's Day, 14 July 2022 That trustworthiness isn’t confined to the filial and social circles. Jon Michail, Forbes, 24 June 2022 To find answers means more truth, less filial piety, and God knows how much more time. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 30 May 2022 Once it was decided the summit would be held in the U.S. for the first time since the inaugural session in 1994, organizers thought Los Angeles was a natural fit given its strong cultural, economic, filial and political ties to Latin America. Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2022 See More

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.

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 9 Dec. 2022.

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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