ma·​ter·​fa·​mil·​i·​as ˌmā-tər-fə-ˈmi-lē-əs How to pronounce materfamilias (audio)
: a woman who is head of a household

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The novel recounts the history and hardships of the Binewski clan, carnival folk whose pater- and materfamilias, Al and Crystal Lil, create their own freak show. Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2022 But with tact and humanity, this materfamilias has still calmed the waters. Boyd Van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Oct. 2019 Though the Roundabout production, which opened on Tuesday evening, stars Elizabeth McGovern as the materfamilias, the story really is Kay’s. Jesse Green, New York Times, 10 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'materfamilias.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Latin, from mater + familias, archaic genitive of familia household — more at family

First Known Use

1756, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of materfamilias was in 1756

Dictionary Entries Near materfamilias

Cite this Entry

“Materfamilias.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

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