pa·​tri·​cian | \ pə-ˈtri-shən How to pronounce patrician (audio) \
plural patricians

Definition of patrician

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a member of one of the original citizen families of ancient Rome
2a : a person of high birth : aristocrat one of the most nobly born of English patricians— Sam Schulman
b : a person of breeding and cultivation a tall patrician … who looked as if she was accustomed to serving on boards and making important decisions— J. A. Michener



Definition of patrician (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, having, or characterized by high birth, rank, or station : aristocratic a patrician family But coming from a long patrician line of New England gentry … he is vulnerable to the populist card that his rivals are playing hard.— Peter Oborne More common than middle-class organizations in the mid-nineteenth century, however, were the exclusive patrician male enclaves, such as Boston's Somerset club …— Howard P. Chudacoff
b : associated with or characteristic of people of high social rank his patrician bearing a stately, patrician residence … they spent freely on virtually everything that could be acquired to accommodate a patrician life-style.— Simon Schama … some visitors may prefer the more patrician comfort of hotels in L'Aquila.— Niccolò Vivarelli
2 : of or relating to a member of one of the original citizen families of ancient Rome … his pride was gratified by the choice of Nomius and Anatolius, two ministers of consular or patrician rank …— Edward Gibbon

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Did You Know?

A patrician was originally a descendant of one of the original citizen families of ancient Rome. Until about 350 B.C., only patricians could hold the office of senator, consul, or pontifex (priest). Later, the word was applied to members of the nobility created by the Roman emperor Constantine. As time went by, other nobles, such as those in medieval Italian republics and in German city-states, also came to be known as patricians. Today someone's appearance, manners, or tastes can be described as patrician, whether the person is actually of high birth or not. The actress Grace Kelly, an immigrant's daughter, was admired for her patrician beauty even before she became Princess Grace of Monaco, with classic features worthy of ancient Rome's finest sculptors.

Examples of patrician in a Sentence

Noun the Southern patricians who once resided in these stately plantation homes
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun People around town have never much cared for caricatures of the place—the starchy patricians, the chinless wonders, the history of exclusion—even when there is truth in them. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, "How Greenwich Republicans Learned to Love Trump," 3 May 2020 For the dearth, / The gods, not the patricians, make it, and / Your knees to them, not arms, must help. James Shapiro, The New Yorker, "The Shakespeare Play That Presaged the Trump Administration’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic," 8 Apr. 2020 Belgravia, named for the tony London neighborhood still home to Britain's most affluent patricians, begins in Brussels on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Belgravia': TV Review," 10 Apr. 2020 In practice, the plebeians (the general citizenry) had fewer voting rights than the aristocratic patricians. National Geographic, "In ancient Rome, citizenship was the path to power," 4 Nov. 2019 In ancient Rome, the wealthy patricians ran the empire. Bret Stetka, Scientific American, "Ancient Teeth Reveal Social Stratification Dates Back to Bronze Age Societies," 11 Oct. 2019 Bateman also suggested that orchids were nature’s green patricians. Katy Kelleher, Longreads, "The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Orchids," 9 Oct. 2019 Over the show’s first four seasons, the onetime patrician, played by Catherine O’Hara, lost her friends, her acting prestige, and a handful of her beloved wigs. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "The Sweetly Subversive Marriage at the Core of Schitt’s Creek," 21 Sep. 2019 Which is to say: The intellectual became a plebeian in part because the patricians abandoned their duty. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "A Herd Has No Mind," 11 July 2019

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1533, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for patrician


Middle English patricion, from Anglo-French patrician, from Latin patricius, from patres senators, from plural of pater father — more at father

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Time Traveler for patrician

Time Traveler

The first known use of patrician was in the 15th century

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Statistics for patrician

Last Updated

11 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Patrician.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for patrician


How to pronounce patrician (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of patrician

formal : a person who is a member of the highest social class

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