pa·​ter·​nal·​ism | \ pə-ˈtər-nə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce paternalism (audio) \

Definition of paternalism

1 : a system under which an authority undertakes to supply needs or regulate conduct of those under its control in matters affecting them as individuals as well as in their relations to authority and to each other the empire's paternalism in regard to its colonies
2 : a policy or practice based on or characteristic of paternalism

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Other Words from paternalism

paternalist \ pə-​ˈtər-​nə-​list How to pronounce paternalist (audio) \ noun or adjective
paternalistic \ pə-​ˌtər-​nə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce paternalistic (audio) \ adjective
paternalistically \ pə-​ˌtər-​nə-​ˈli-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce paternalistically (audio) \ adverb

Examples of paternalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The outrage theater will hurt him, but the underlying questions — What are the proper limits of state paternalism toward the poor? Nr Editors, National Review, "The Week," 5 Dec. 2019 For Thomas, seemingly egalitarian policies like integration thus become evidence of racial paternalism. Corey Robin, The New Yorker, "Clarence Thomas’s Radical Vision of Race," 21 June 2019 Whatever the rationale, the policy reeks of paternalism. Erin Hawley, National Review, "Harvard’s Ban on Single-Sex Organizations Hurts Women," 19 Aug. 2019 Many journalists there chalked up Life’s report — and the stories that followed, including a Life cover story about Da Silva’s medical treatment in Denver — to U.S. paternalism and imperialism. Los Angeles Times, "Flavio da Silva, photographed as a boy in Brazil’s favelas, on the images that outraged," 19 July 2019 The supposed benevolence of paternalism could no longer shield its fundamental assumptions of hierarchy and supremacy. Drew Gilpin Faust, The Atlantic, "Race, History, and Memories of a Virginia Girlhood," 18 July 2019 Its governing philosophy, reaching back to the Whigs of the 18th century, rested on the idea of aristocratic paternalism, with gentlemen from the great families ruling in the public interest. William Anthony Hay, WSJ, "‘Lansdowne’ Review: Noble Aspirations," 26 Dec. 2018 This isn’t strictly out of paternalism (although there are elements of that). Rob Reid, Ars Technica, "Ars on your lunch break: The toxic truths within our DNA," 18 July 2018 So this is not about white paternalism, this is about African-American agency. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "The Unheralded Pioneers of 19th-Century America Were Free African-American Families," 19 June 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Statistics for paternalism

Last Updated

5 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Paternalism.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 18 January 2020.

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More Definitions for paternalism


How to pronounce paternalism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of paternalism

usually disapproving : the attitude or actions of a person, organization, etc., that protects people and gives them what they need but does not give them any responsibility or freedom of choice

More from Merriam-Webster on paternalism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with paternalism Encyclopedia article about paternalism

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