pa·​tri·​arch | \ˈpā-trē-ˌärk \

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

Now, patriarch Billy Brown was briefly hospitalized after a health scare. Megan Friedman, Country Living, "‘Alaskan Bush People’ Star Billy Brown Was Hospitalized After a Health Scare," 21 Oct. 2018 The father and daughter reportedly have not spoken since the high-profile royal wedding at Windsor Castle in May. The patriarch claimed he has been completely cut off. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Samantha Markle flying to London to seek meeting with half-sister Meghan Markle, publicist says," 25 Sep. 2018 The past two generations of royals have followed in the footsteps of patriarch Prince Philip, and started boarding school at the age of 8. Marcia Moody, Town & Country, "Here's What Prince George and Princess Charlotte's Royal Education Will Entail," 26 Aug. 2018 And part of the reason fans got suspicious was because of a cryptic post from patriarch Matt Roloff’s Instagram. Megan Friedman, Good Housekeeping, "Matt Roloff Defends His Instagram Post That Sparked Audrey’s Pregnancy Rumors," 2 Aug. 2018 The meeting was the first of its kind, gathering most of the Middle East’s Orthodox patriarchs with the head of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church as well as Lutheran leaders and their Christian representatives in the Holy Land. Washington Post, "Pope denounces ‘murderous indifference’ by powers in Mideast," 7 July 2018 Lewis portrays Ruby Johnson, mother of the show's patriarch Andre Johnson portrayed by actor Anthony Anderson. Brian Todd, Detroit Free Press, "Actor on ABC's 'Black-ish' slams Gov. Snyder over Flint water Crisis," 3 July 2018 Married more than 30 years ago on July 21, 1984, the Duggar family matriarch and patriarch waited four years to have their first child, Josh. Alicia Dennis,, "Do You Know Your Duggars? A Comprehensive Guide to the Giant Family," 28 June 2018 Following his death, grandsons Randy Jackson Jr. and Taj Jackson also took to Twitter to express their grief over the patriarch's passing. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "Paris Jackson Posts Touching Tribute to Grandfather Joe Jackson After His Death: 'I Have Immense Gratitude For You, and Always Will'," 27 June 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.

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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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Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

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

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More Definitions for patriarch


pa·​tri·​arch | \ˈpā-trē-ˌärk \

Kids Definition of patriarch

1 : a man who heads a family, group, or government

2 : a respected old man

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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

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