ma·​tri·​arch ˈmā-trē-ˌärk How to pronounce matriarch (audio)
: a woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state
specifically : a mother who is head and ruler of her family and descendants
Our grandmother was the family's matriarch.

Did you know?

A matriarchy is a social unit governed by a woman or group of women. It isn't certain that a true matriarchal society has ever existed, so matriarchy is usually treated as an imaginative concept. But there are societies in which relatedness through women rather than men is stressed, and elements of matriarchy may be stronger in certain societies than they are in most of the Western world. And most of us can point to families in which a woman has become the dominant figure, or grande dame, or matriarch.

Example Sentences

Our grandmother was the family's matriarch. The tribe's matriarch ruled for 20 years before her death.
Recent Examples on the Web The confident and uncompromising wife of James, Margaret (Faith Hill) was the Dutton family matriarch in 1883. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, 14 Nov. 2022 Chang Chang follows standard bearers Mama Chang in Fairfax, named in part for family matriarch Lisa, also a chef, and Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda in an empire that has grown to 12 dining rooms in the Mid-Atlantic and one in Stamford, Conn. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2022 As part of the Kardashian-Jenner crew's dinner to honor the family matriarch, North, 9, joined her mother Kim 42, in dressing up as Kris. Georgia Slater, Peoplemag, 8 Nov. 2022 The Carter-Knowleses together dressed as the characters in Disney Channel's The Proud Family, with Bey herself appearing in the family pic twice as both the family matriarch Suga Mama and Penny's mother Trudy Proud. Kathleen Walsh, Glamour, 4 Nov. 2022 Last week, the Duchess of Sussex spoke about the death of the royal matriarch for the first time in the interview that accompanied her Variety Power of Women cover. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 25 Oct. 2022 The Austin family’s impending eviction turns on a disagreement with the previous owners of the home, family friends of the Austin matriarch. oregonlive, 17 Oct. 2022 Eileen Ryan, a veteran actress and matriarch of the Hollywood family that includes actor Sean Penn, died at her home on Sunday, according to a statement shared by Penn’s publicist. Dan Heching, CNN, 10 Oct. 2022 Beverly D'Angelo plays family matriarch Gertrude Lightstone; Alex Hassell (Vicious in Cowboy Bebop) plays her son, Skyler; and Alexis Louder plays Skyler's estranged wife, Margie Matthews. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 5 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1606, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of matriarch was in 1606

Dictionary Entries Near matriarch

Cite this Entry

“Matriarch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



ma·​tri·​arch ˈmā-trē-ˌärk How to pronounce matriarch (audio)
: a woman who rules a family, group, or state
especially : a mother who is head of her family and descendants
matriarchal adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on matriarch

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