pa·​tri·​arch | \ ˈpā-trē-ˌärk How to pronounce patriarch (audio) \

Definition of patriarch

1a : one of the scriptural fathers of the human race or of the Hebrew people Abraham was a patriarch of the Israelites.
b : a man who is father or founder The newspaper patriarch celebrated his 90th birthday.
c(1) : the oldest member or representative of a group the cypress … is the patriarch of native trees, going back to the time of the dinosaurAmer. Guide Series: Texas
(2) : a venerable old man a whiskered patriarch, spry for his age— Frank Sullivan
d : a man who is head of a patriarchy
2a : any of the bishops of the ancient or Eastern Orthodox sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem or the ancient and Western see of Rome with authority over other bishops
b : the head of any of various Eastern churches
c : a Roman Catholic bishop next in rank to the pope with purely titular or with metropolitan (see metropolitan entry 2 sense 1) jurisdiction
3 : a Mormon of the Melchizedek priesthood empowered to perform the ordinances of the church and pronounce blessings within a stake or prescribed jurisdiction

Examples of patriarch in a Sentence

Our grandfather was the family's patriarch. The tribe's patriarch ruled for 20 years before his death.
Recent Examples on the Web The painting tells the story of people traveling to an island off of Maine for a funeral after the patriarch of a significant lobstering family has died. Madeline Mitchell,, "Taft Museum of Art features artist who inspired 'Star Wars' and 'Game of Thrones' creators," 6 Feb. 2020 Years of medical bills and being the patriarch of a sprawling family took a heavy toll. Adam Popescu, New York Times, "Dog the Bounty Hunter Is Hunting Alone," 17 Jan. 2020 The patriarch of the family has raised some questions over his parenting and lifestyle choices, which, for the most part, appear to be aimed at keeping his children extremely sheltered. Laura Hanrahan, Woman's Day, "Who is Barry Plath? Everything We Know About the Star of 'Welcome to Plathville'," 6 Jan. 2020 In 1997 the patriarch of the Russian church excommunicated him and declared his followers schismatics. Michael Khodarkovsky, WSJ, "Russia Wages a Religious War Against Ukraine," 30 Sep. 2018 Comic murder mystery about the investigation into the death of the patriarch of an eccentric, combative family. Detroit Free Press, "New movies: 'Knives Out,' 'Dark Waters,' 'Honey Boy,' 'Queen & Slim'," 26 Nov. 2019 Of the many roles that Mel embraced throughout his lifetime, his most esteemed role was that of the family patriarch, finding the perfect balance between his family and his career., "Melvin Katzman," 15 Sep. 2019 Kevin Hafso-Koppman is one of the most versatile comedic actors in town, ideally suiting him for the role of the passionate Addams patriarch, Gomez. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Gifted cast makes ‘The Addams Family’ a treat at Welk Resort Theatre," 7 Sep. 2019 John Goodman plays another patriarch, Eli Gemstone, who presides over a successful mega-church empire., "‘Succession’ and ‘The Righteous Gemstones’: How to make unlikable characters into great TV (and how not to)," 13 Aug. 2019

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for patriarch

Middle English patriarche, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin patriarcha, from Greek patriarchēs, from patria lineage (from patr-, patēr father) + -archēs -arch — more at father

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Time Traveler for patriarch

Time Traveler

The first known use of patriarch was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

26 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Patriarch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for patriarch


pa·​tri·​arch | \ ˈpā-trē-ˌärk How to pronounce patriarch (audio) \

Kids Definition of patriarch

1 : a man who heads a family, group, or government
2 : a respected old man

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