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 paterfamilias (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 The paterfamilias of the movement is the 80-year-old South African potter Hylton Nel, who works from a ramshackle barn in rural Calitzdorp, four hours east of Cape Town. New York Times, 19 Aug. 2021 Beard, for his part, seems to have embraced his status as paterfamilias. Madeline Leung Coleman, The Atlantic, 29 Nov. 2020 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,, 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, 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, 17 June 2019 In our book, Bradley Whitford's paterfamilias is no less repugnant than Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal. Lisa Rosen,, 15 Feb. 2018 As in the Capra classic, the madcap proceedings swirl around an aged paterfamilias. Andrea Simakis,, 20 Oct. 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, 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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Last Updated

31 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paterfamilias.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of paterfamilias

: 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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