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

Example Sentences

Our grandfather was the family's patriarch. The tribe's patriarch ruled for 20 years before his death.
Recent Examples on the Web All funds, including the entire 50-50 pot, were given to the Moriarty family, whose patriarch, JJ, was also diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer shortly after Seth. Brian Haenchen, The Indianapolis Star, 11 Jan. 2023 Lady Annabella Bryon came from a wealthy family, whose patriarch was a member of Parliament. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 3 Nov. 2022 Banogon is a decedent of the Gibson family, whose patriarch Charles Gibson was in the late 1800s one of the first settlers to the area that ultimately became the city of Gary. Carrie Napoleon, Chicago Tribune, 1 July 2022 The lawsuit was filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court in Israel on behalf of the Leviev family, whose patriarch, Lev Leviev, is a billionaire diamond magnate. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 28 Feb. 2022 The series follows the Dutton family with Costner playing the John Dutton, the patriarch of a complicated family of ranchers in conflict. Marianne Garvey, CNN, 2 Jan. 2023 Williams played the patriarch of the Weasley family, who is also a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Kelsie Gibson, Peoplemag, 20 Dec. 2022 Russian soldiers who die in the line of duty in Ukraine have all of their sins forgiven, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church proclaimed in a sermon, comparing their sacrificial death to that of Jesus. Peter Smith, ajc, 27 Sep. 2022 The 1923 patriarch of the Dutton's and owner of the ranch, Jacob is the brother of 1883's James Dutton. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, 19 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

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 30 Jan. 2023.

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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