pa·​tri·​ar·​chy | \ ˈpā-trē-ˌär-kē \
plural patriarchies

Definition of patriarchy

1 : social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
2 : a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy For 20 years the country was ruled as a patriarchy.

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Did You Know?

With its root -arch, meaning "ruler, leader", a patriarch is a man who dominates something, even if it's just a family. In Christianity, the term is used for a few leading figures who appear early in the Old Testament, including Methuselah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in the Eastern Orthodox church, a patriarch is usually the equivalent of a bishop. Outside of the field of anthropology, patriarchy didn't start to be used much until the 1970s, when the women's movement gained a huge following. Many feminists have claimed that all Western societies are patriarchal—that is, that they systematically enable men to dominate women. But there's plenty of disagreement about how this is done, and the word isn't discussed as often as it used to be.

Examples of patriarchy in a Sentence

For 20 years, the country was ruled as a patriarchy. a region in which patriarchy is practiced

Recent Examples on the Web

Why, a painting of her dog toppling the patriarchy, of course! Zoe Weiner, Glamour, "Someone Gave Meghan Markle a Drawing of Her Dog Toppling the Patriarchy," 3 Oct. 2018 Activists in any number of fields have lately renewed their calls to topple the patriarchy, but classical music is one of the few remaining areas of human endeavor in which leaders are still encouraged to think of themselves as daddies. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "With James Levine Fired, Should We Rethink Maestro Worship?," 13 Mar. 2018 As my colleague Terry Real says, the patriarchy hurts us all. Esther Perel, Glamour, "One Crazy Idea to Empower Women? Focus on Men," 12 Dec. 2018 And Mariana is working at a tech startup and kind of fighting the patriarchy. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, ""Good Trouble": Everything We Know About "The Fosters" Spin-Off," 23 July 2018 The tour, which costs $49 or $59 depending on the city, is a little bit irreverent and 100 percent relevant in this broader moment when the patriarchy is getting the side eye. Kate Silver,, "To bring back visitors, museums are having to draw on their own creativity," 25 Apr. 2018 One of the greatest tricks that the patriarchy plays on women is to deliberately destabilize them, then use their instability as a reason to disbelieve them. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Koch network laying groundwork to fundamentally transform America’s education system," 30 Jan. 2018 Similar to how patriarchy needs women to uphold it, white supremacy utilizes minorities to oppress one another. Aditi Natasha Kini, The Root, "The Model Minority Is Not a Myth: It’s Ajit Pai," 19 Jan. 2018 Christian Domestic Discipline, described as a Christian patriarchy movement. Bukola Adebayo, CNN, "Nigerian students tied to crucifixes and beaten for coming late to school," 18 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'patriarchy.' 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 patriarchy

1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

5 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for patriarchy

The first known use of patriarchy was in 1632

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More Definitions for patriarchy



English Language Learners Definition of patriarchy

: a family, group, or government controlled by a man or a group of men

: a social system in which family members are related to each other through their fathers

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More from Merriam-Webster on patriarchy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with patriarchy

Spanish Central: Translation of patriarchy

Nglish: Translation of patriarchy for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about patriarchy

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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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