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 Masked Monster Family patriarch was eliminated in the second showing of Group B and revealed as controversial YouTuber and boxer Logan Paul, not Morgan Freeman as panelist Jenny McCarthy had bizarrely guessed. Dalton Ross,, 13 Aug. 2021 In May, according to Agence France-Presse, Saudi Arabia released Bakr bin Laden—now in his seventies, who has been the patriarch of the bin Laden family since the late nineteen-eighties—after almost four years of detention. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2021 Media empire-ruling patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) begins Season 3 in a perilous position, scrambling to secure familial, political, and financial alliances after being ambushed by his rebellious son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) at the end of season 2. Clark Collis,, 6 July 2021 The family’s patriarch spent ample time abroad and founded an orphanage in 1992 as part of missionary work in the Philippines. Edgar Thompson,, 15 June 2021 But the two most senior Serb religious leaders — the patriarch and Bishop Amfilohije — died after COVID-19 complications. Star Tribune, 23 Nov. 2020 Then there’s that fame — the massive internet following, the Facebook reality show, the family patriarch and radio producer’s dream guest. Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2020 The patriarch of one of the wealthiest and most famous families in Lee's birthplace of Westmoreland County freed his slaves decades before the war, but this did not move the general to do the same. Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, 12 Sep. 2021 Eddie Lee Sexton, abusive patriarch of an itinerant Ohio family, who in 1994 ordered his mentally disabled son to kill Sexton’s son-in-law while the family camped in Hillsborough River State Park. Dan Sullivan,, 4 Sep. 2021

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

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Dictionary Entries Near patriarch

patria potestas



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Last Updated

10 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Patriarch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

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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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