pa·​ter·​fa·​mil·​i·​as | \ ˌpa-tər-fə-ˈmi-lē-əs How to pronounce paterfamilias (audio) , ˌpä-, ˌpā- \
plural patresfamilias\ ˌpā-​ˌtrēz-​ How to pronounce patresfamilias (audio) , 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 Marshall, now in his 60s, is the paterfamilias of African-American painting, with decades invested in depicting, over and over, scenes of black American life. Murray Whyte,, "On the walls at Harvard museums, calling out art’s racist, sexist history," 31 Aug. 2019 Leonard races over the company’s founding in Wichita, Kan., by Fred Sr. in 1940, in order to arrive at the book’s real beginning: 1967, when the paterfamilias suddenly died on a duck-hunting trip and the 32-year-old Charles took over. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "‘Kochland’ Measures the Reach of a Politically Influential Corporate Giant," 13 Aug. 2019 As his last act, the small but mighty paterfamilias gives an arm and a life to the cause of reproduction. Taylor Maggiacomo, National Geographic, "To mate, this octopus gives life and limb," 17 June 2019 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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Time Traveler for paterfamilias

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

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Cite this Entry

“Paterfamilias.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2020.

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English Language Learners Definition of paterfamilias

formal : a man who is the head of a family

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for paterfamilias Encyclopedia article about paterfamilias

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