pa·​ter·​fa·​mil·​i·​as ˌpa-tər-fə-ˈmi-lē-əs How to pronounce paterfamilias (audio)
plural patresfamilias ˌpā-ˌtrēz- How to pronounce paterfamilias (audio)
: the male head of a household
: the father of a family
: 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 There’s also a concern about acting as if your son were a source of shame, a secret to be hidden from the paterfamilias. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 9 Aug. 2022 In a sense this is a classic family drama: the struggle over the paterfamilias’s legacy, complete with allegations of late-in-life changes to the will. Benjamin Soskis, Town & Country, 27 Oct. 2022 Schumer’s actions as paterfamilias of Senate Democrats are often informed by his New York sensibilities. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 13 Sep. 2022 Andy Garcia plays the paterfamilias in this 2022 remake of the 1991 remake of the 1950 comedy. Tribune News Service, cleveland, 12 June 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'paterfamilias.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Cite this Entry

“Paterfamilias.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2024.

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