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

Publicity for the show plays up the feminist angle — Antigone as a woman challenging the patriarchy — and the Afropunk inspiration of the staging, but in performance these are not the resonances that stand out. Laura Collins-hughes, New York Times, "Review: ‘Antigone’ Asserts Whose Lives Matter, With Modern Relevance," 9 July 2018 With Markle and Harry’s upcoming wedding, spectators on both sides of the Atlantic are faced with a contradiction: a bride who represents change, and a tradition steeped in colonialism and patriarchy. Anna North, Vox, "For many feminists, Meghan Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry is — like so many weddings — a mixed bag.," 15 May 2018 Now, the songstress has another killer single all about women's empowerment, with a music video that shows her and Demi Lovato smashing the patriarchy, one power belt at a time., "Christina Aguilera & Demi Lovato Just Went Full-On Handmaid's Tale," 23 May 2018 Demanding a return to patriarchy — as many in the alt-right, incel, and men’s rights activists communities have done, and as Peterson himself has done — aren’t particularly transgressive behaviors. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The religious hunger that drives Jordan Peterson’s fandom," 1 June 2018 Nominations: 12 Written and directed by the team behind Gilmore Girls, Mrs. Maisel is a wish-fulfillment fantasy about a 1950s housewife in New York City who throws off the mantle of the patriarchy to become a raunchy stand-up comic. Emily Dreyfuss, WIRED, "9 Emmy-Nominated Shows You Can Binge to Escape Reality," 13 July 2018 Commentators blasted the promotion as an attempt to capitalize on themes of rape, misogyny, and unbridled patriarchy. Claire Zillman, Fortune, "Oprah Winfrey Empire, Angela Merkel, Paternity Leave: Broadsheet July 12th," 12 July 2018 Jennifer is kidnapping, killing and dropping the bodies of rapists from the sky, literally, to kick start a revolution against the patriarchy. Lorraine Ali,, "Why Marti Noxon's 'Dietland' is the right show for the #MeToo moment," 4 June 2018 In the struggle against patriarchy, a distinction between the public and private makes no sense. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "We All Live on Campus Now," 9 Feb. 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

9 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for patriarchy

The first known use of patriarchy was in 1632

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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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