pa·​tri·​ar·​chy | \ ˈpā-trē-ˌär-kē How to pronounce patriarchy (audio) \
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

Witches join together to fight against the patriarchy, to implement rights for the LGBTQ community, and for feminist beliefs. Lisa Stardust, Teen Vogue, "How to Do Magic and Other Questions You Might Have About Being a Witch," 30 Apr. 2019 Such unruliness is a real threat to the patriarchy—especially because many of us childfree women have more free time to smash it. Therese Shechter, SELF, "Menopause Was the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me," 13 Mar. 2019 In the past, a woman wearing non-feminine clothing usually meant something: a symbol of resistance during the French Revolution; a challenge to the patriarchy for early-20th-century suffragettes; a bid for workplace inclusion in the 1970s and ’80s. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "Who Needs Gender? Why Men and Women Are Dressing Identically," 21 Feb. 2019 The semi-matte, blue-tone crimson has since accompanied me to workshops on fourth-wave feminism and in my semi-regular efforts to squash the patriarchy. Jessica Bennett, Vogue, "The New, Subtly Subversive Power of Pink Lipstick," 19 Mar. 2019 There is a way in which this is all about grooming for patriarchy. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "Why You Don't Have to Wear a Bra," 30 Nov. 2018 Understanding patriarchy as a colonial expression used to control others can also help explain how teachers have come to oppress people of color. Andre Perry, The Root, "Dear, Teacher: How Does It Feel to Be an Oppressor?," 6 Feb. 2018 For a long time, the answer was obvious, a symptom of the patriarchy: wedding tradition dating back to medieval England said a woman would of course take her husband’s name. Todd Plummer, Vogue, "More Newlywed Couples Are Combining Their Last Names—Would You?," 10 Aug. 2018 Like many women in the 1950s and early ’60s, my mother, Betty, was held hostage by the patriarchy that surrounded her. Marc Myers, WSJ, "Told She’d Never Make It, Christine Lahti Has the Last Laugh," 27 Nov. 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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Statistics for patriarchy

Last Updated

11 May 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

Comments on patriarchy

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one that collects or salvages junk

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