ma·​ter·​nal | \mə-ˈtər-nᵊl \

Definition of maternal 

1 : of, relating to, belonging to, or characteristic of a mother : motherly maternal love maternal instincts

2a : related through a mother his maternal aunt

b : inherited or derived from the female parent maternal genes

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Other Words from maternal

maternally \-​nᵊl-​ē \ adverb

Synonyms for maternal


mother, motherly

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Examples of maternal in a Sentence

Doctors are concerned about the effects of the drug on maternal health. her maternal instincts told her that something was wrong

Recent Examples on the Web

His maternal grandfather, Vince Lorrain, was a defensive back and punt returner for Jim Owens’ Washington teams in the mid-1960s. Adam Jude, The Seattle Times, "UW Huskies make scholarship offer to Kennedy Catholic’s Sam Huard, top QB recruit in 2021 class," 12 Nov. 2018 Marie-Thérèse Walter, Oliver’s maternal grandmother, was Pablo’s muse and mistress from 1927 to about 1935, and there had been many women (and many children) since. Marley Marius, Vogue, "On the Heels of an $88 Million Picasso Sale, Olivier Widmaier Picasso Talks Art, Life, and His Very Famous Grandfather," 12 Nov. 2018 The statement was read to jurors by Tyriq's maternal grandmother. Matthew Barakat, Fox News, "Jury hears opening statements in police officer's death," 12 Sep. 2018 The government stopped regularly publishing health and mortality statistics in 2015, save for a rare release last year of a Health Ministry bulletin that showed that infant and maternal mortality had shot up. Luciana Magalhaes And Juan Forero, WSJ, "Venezuela’s Health Crisis Is Crossing the Border," 31 Oct. 2018 What's worse, that same recent report from the CDC highlights an association between opioid exposure and pre-term labor, stillbirth, even maternal mortality. . Hayley Krischer, Marie Claire, "How Heroin Came for Middle-Class Moms," 20 Aug. 2018 America’s maternal mortality rate is the highest of any developed nation, and the U.S. is the only such country where this death rate is rising. Ese Olumhense,, "1 baby shower, 5 dozen moms: Local hospital system works to combat deaths of mothers, infants," 6 July 2018 Child and maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest, with about one child in five dying before the age of five. The Economist, "Angola’s new president, João Lourenço, has made an encouraging start," 3 May 2018 Other aid areas include maternal and child health, agriculture, operating expenses, water supply and sanitation, and general health. Laura Smith-spark, CNN, "Trump dodges questions about vulgar Africa remark," 30 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'maternal.' 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 maternal

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for maternal

Middle English, from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French maternel, from Medieval Latin maternalis, from Latin maternus, from mater mother — more at mother

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Statistics for maternal

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for maternal

The first known use of maternal was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of maternal

: of or relating to a mother

: of or relating to a woman who is having a baby

: related through the mother


ma·​ter·​nal | \mə-ˈtər-nᵊl \

Kids Definition of maternal

1 : of or relating to a mother maternal instincts

2 : related through the mother maternal grandparents

Other Words from maternal

maternally adverb


ma·​ter·​nal | \mə-ˈtərn-ᵊl \

Medical Definition of maternal 

1 : of, relating to, belonging to, or characteristic of a mother maternal instinct

2a : related through a mother his maternal aunt

b : inherited or derived from the female parent maternal genes

Other Words from maternal

maternally \-​ᵊl-​ē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on maternal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with maternal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for maternal

Spanish Central: Translation of maternal

Nglish: Translation of maternal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of maternal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on maternal

What made you want to look up maternal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having a pattern of small flowers

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