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

Ribeiro captioned the pic with a shout-out to the late James Avery, who played the larger-than-life Banks family patriarch, Uncle Phil. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Clueless Is the Latest Magical ’90s Reunion Captured Online," 25 Mar. 2019 Francis has continued his predecessors’ efforts at reconciling with the Orthodox church, and held a historic meeting with Kirill in 2016 in Cuba, the first between a pope and Russian patriarch in over a millennium. Washington Post, "Pope denounces ‘murderous indifference’ by powers in Mideast," 7 July 2018 In 2003, Gianni Agnelli, the legendary Fiat patriarch who led the family for four decades, died, followed a little more than a year later by the death of his younger brother Umberto. Eric Sylvers, WSJ, "Sergio Marchionne’s Death Thrusts Agnelli Heir Into Spotlight," 25 July 2018 The Jackson family patriarch died on Wednesday and is survived by eight of his children and multiple grandchildren. Alexia Fernandez,, "Joe Jackson Laid to Rest in the Same Cemetery as Son Michael Following Private Funeral: Reports," 3 July 2018 Joe Jackson, the controversial patriarch of one of the most famous singing family acts of all time who used a firm hand to steer the careers of his superstar children, has died. Jill Leovy,, "Joe Jackson, patriarch of musical family of pop stars, dies at 89," 27 June 2018 The patriarch of each of those teams has died in recent years or is in failing health. Ken Belson, New York Times, "Carolina Panthers Will Be Sold for $2.2 Billion to David Tepper," 15 May 2018 The show's two-season path to revealing how -- spoiler reminder! -- patriarch Jack died firmly placed the blame in Tuesday's episode on a faulty secondhand slow-cooker, the humble, downright beloved American appliance. Becky Krystal,, "Crock-Pot tells 'This Is Us' fans: Our slow cookers won't kill you," 25 Jan. 2018 Rosemary’s younger sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, recalled that doctors had told their concerned patriarch that the procedure, in which the frontal lobes of the brain are scraped away, would help Rosemary. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Rosemary Kennedy sought friendship from her hired caretakers before undergoing a lobotomy, letters reveal," 13 Sep. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about patriarch

Statistics for patriarch

Last Updated

9 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for patriarch

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on patriarch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with patriarch

Spanish Central: Translation of patriarch

Nglish: Translation of patriarch for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of patriarch for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about patriarch

Comments on patriarch

What made you want to look up patriarch? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


marked by a state of overwhelming emotion

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!