pa·​ter·​fa·​mil·​i·​as | \ˌpa-tər-fə-ˈmi-lē-əs, ˌpä-, ˌpā-\
plural patresfamilias\ ˌpā-​ˌtrēz-​ , ˌpä-​ˌtrās-​ \

Definition of paterfamilias 

1 : the male head of a household

2 : the father of a family

3 : a man who originates or is a leading figure in something (such as a movement, discipline, or enterprise)

Examples of paterfamilias in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Photo: Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC, and Universal Pictures No paterfamilias has ever done more for his wife and kids, though the wife in this case is not exactly a shrinking violet. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Skyscraper’ Review: Outsize Building, Outlandish Fun," 12 July 2018 In our book, Bradley Whitford's paterfamilias is no less repugnant than Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal. Lisa Rosen,, "Is 'Shape of Water' this year's 'Return of the King'? Looking to the past to predict the Oscars," 15 Feb. 2018 As in the Capra classic, the madcap proceedings swirl around an aged paterfamilias. Andrea Simakis,, "Eric Coble's world-premiere farce 'The Family Claxon' at Cleveland Public Theatre is a fun-house mirror for America (review)," 20 Oct. 2017 This paterfamilias has lazily added a too-big polo shirt, a freebie baseball cap and drugstore sunglasses. Terrance Flynn, WSJ, "Don’t Be That Guy: Avoiding Over-40 Style Pitfalls," 20 July 2017 Turns out more than one of the guests had a previous run-in with the troubled family — and a reason to dislike the paterfamilias. Roberta Alexander, The Mercury News, "It’s a Mystery: Rhys Bowen, Judith Flanders add to their series," 13 Mar. 2017

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for paterfamilias

Middle English, from Latin, from pater father + familias, archaic genitive of familia household — more at father, family

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

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English Language Learners Definition of paterfamilias

: a man who is the head of a family

More from Merriam-Webster on paterfamilias

See words that rhyme with paterfamilias Encyclopedia article about paterfamilias

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