pa·​tri·​arch ˈpā-trē-ˌärk How to pronounce patriarch (audio)
: one of the scriptural fathers of the human race or of the Hebrew people
Abraham was a patriarch of the Israelites.
: a man who is father or founder
The newspaper patriarch celebrated his 90th birthday.
: 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
: a venerable old man
a whiskered patriarch, spry for his ageFrank Sullivan
: a man who is head of a patriarchy
: 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
: the head of any of various Eastern churches
: a Roman Catholic bishop next in rank to the pope with purely titular or with metropolitan (see metropolitan entry 2 sense 1) jurisdiction
: 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 In 1993, Angelos, the family patriarch, bought the club for $173 million. Jeff Barker, Baltimore Sun, 23 Mar. 2024 Milo Ventimiglia hasn’t forgotten his role as the Pearson family patriarch. Shania Russell,, 22 May 2024 The patriarch made $13,000 in gold, enough to open a shoe store in Seattle alongside friend Carl Wallin. Sasha Rogelberg, Fortune, 22 May 2024 The narrative follows a wealthy São Paulo family in mourning after the passing of their patriarch. Holly Jones, Variety, 21 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for patriarch 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'patriarch.' 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 patriarche, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin patriarcha, from Greek patriarchēs, from patria lineage (from patr-, patēr father) + -archēs -arch — more at father

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near patriarch

Cite this Entry

“Patriarch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


pa·​tri·​arch ˈpā-trē-ˌärk How to pronounce patriarch (audio)
: one of the Old Testament fathers of the human race or of the Hebrew people
: the father and ruler of a family or tribe
: an old man deserving respect
: any of various bishops of highest rank and dignity
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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