Definition of matrilineal
: relating to, based on, or tracing descent through the maternal line <matrilineal society>
matrilineallyplay \-nē-ə-lē\ adverb
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A person's lineage is his or her line of ancestors. So matrilineal means basically "through the mother's line", just as patrilineal means "through the father's line". Matrilineality is an important concept in anthropology; among other things, it usually determines who will inherit property on a person's death. Though families that follow the European model take the father's name and are therefore patrilineal, matrilineal societies have existed around the world, including among various American Indian tribes.
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