ma·​tri·​lin·​eal | \ ˌma-trə-ˈli-nē-əl How to pronounce matrilineal (audio) , ˌmā- \

Definition of matrilineal

: relating to, based on, or tracing descent through the maternal line matrilineal society

Other Words from matrilineal

matrilineally \ ˌma-​trə-​ˈli-​nē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce matrilineal (audio) , ˌmā-​ \ adverb

Did you know?

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.

Examples of matrilineal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Naming a daughter after a mother isn’t a modern phenomenon; in some cultures, the tradition of matrilineal naming goes back centuries. Maggie Mertens, The Atlantic, 29 Apr. 2022 The show will always be a measure of a hero’s journey, matrilineal resolution by virtue of its largest pieces. Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 Apr. 2022 As Meilin soon learns, turning into a red panda is an ancient, matrilineal Chinese curse. Jane Hu, The New Yorker, 31 Mar. 2022 The foundation has been strictly matrilineal: Ms. Coly’s mother, Eileen Coly — the only survivor of Ms. Garrett’s three children; two sons had died young — assumed the role of president of the foundation upon Ms. Garrett’s death in 1970. New York Times, 23 Mar. 2022 But Miriam wants Joan to follow their matrilineal tradition and enter the medical field. Leah Tyler, ajc, 21 Mar. 2022 Oh, whose parents emigrated to Canada from South Korea, says she was drawn to the project’s rendering of matrilineal relationships, especially within an Asian culture. Washington Post, 9 Mar. 2022 Some tribes in the northeastern states, such as Meghalaya, follow a matrilineal system and the groom moves in with the bride’s family after the wedding, while others follow Christian traditions. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 4 Mar. 2022 The story moves back and forth in time to trace three generations of a Southern Black family’s racial trauma — and a long matrilineal tradition that could guide Joan to healing. Washington Post, 5 Feb. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of matrilineal

1904, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of matrilineal was in 1904

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Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Matrilineal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for matrilineal


ma·​tri·​lin·​eal | \ ˌma-trə-ˈlin-ē-əl How to pronounce matrilineal (audio) , ˌmā- How to pronounce matrilineal (audio) \

Medical Definition of matrilineal

: relating to, based on, or tracing descent through the maternal line a matrilineal society


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