patriot

noun
pa·​tri·​ot | \ ˈpā-trē-ət How to pronounce patriot (audio) , -ˌät, chiefly British ˈpa-trē-ət \

Definition of patriot

: one who loves and supports his or her country … praised him as a … motivated patriot who was fearless in the quest to preserve American security.— W. R. Hearst, Jr.

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Synonyms for patriot

Synonyms

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More on the Meaning of Patriot

The word patriot signifies a person who loves his or her country and is ready to boldly support and defend it. That meaning has endured since the word's arrival in English in the 16th century, but it has not marched through the years unchallenged.

Ultimately derived from Greek patrios, meaning "of one’s father," patriot entered English via French patriote—meaning "fellow countryman" or "compatriot"—during a time of political unrest in western Europe that was characterized by infighting among fellow countrymen—especially among those of the Protestant and Catholic faiths.

For much of the 17th century, words like good were attached to patriot to distinguish patriots who shared both a love of country and a common allegiance from those having opposing beliefs and loyalties: to be deemed a "good patriot" was to be a lover of country who agreed on political and/or religious matters with whoever was doing the deeming.

The Catholiques were knowne good Patriots under our former Kings.
— Henry Hammond, A view of some exceptions which have been made by a Romanist to the Lord Viscount Falkland's discourse…, 1646

Patriot was used to mean "good patriot" without modification more frequently by the end of the 17th century, but it tended to apply to a supporter of the ruling monarchy.

A Patriot, both the King and Country serves; Prerogative, and Privilege preserves.
— John Dryden, Fables, Ancient and Modern, 1700

Another effect of the tumultuous times was the development of a derogatory use of patriot to refer to hypocritical patriots: people who claimed devotion to one's country and government but whose actions or beliefs belied such devotion. This ultimately led to the discrediting of the loyalty and steadfastness associated with the word patriot.

The years leading up to the American Revolutionary War further propagated the notion of patriot as a name for a seditious rebel against the monarchy. American writers of the 18th century, however, heartily embraced the word to define the colonists who took action against British control. As tensions continued to escalate, a new meaning of patriot came to the forefront, referring to a person who advocates or promotes the independence of their land or people from the country of which they are a colony. Benjamin Franklin provides an early record of this use.

It should be no Wonder … if among so many Thousand true Patriots as New England contains there should be found even Twelve Judases.
— Benjamin Franklin, letter, 7 July 1773

In the end, the patriots won the war and, centuries after America’s Declaration of Independence, patriot has held its place of honor in the English language as the meritorious name for the brave men and women of the armed forces who defend the rights and freedoms of their country. Stripped of all past disparagement, the word has returned to its original meaning: "one who loves his or her country."

Today, active fighting or resistance is not a requirement to being a patriot: a person only needs a strong sense of love for one’s country.

Examples of patriot in a Sentence

He was a great patriot who devoted his life to serving his country. the contention that true patriots would be willing to do anything for their country
Recent Examples on the Web Conservatives upset over property destruction during recent protests have portrayed him as a patriot exercising his right to bear arms during unrest. Arkansas Online, "Illinois teen charged in protest slayings posts $2M bail," 20 Nov. 2020 His actions were those of a patriot, a believer, a hard worker, an advocate. Chris Granger, National Geographic, "What New Orleans lost when a beloved community member fell to COVID-19," 13 Oct. 2020 The patriot in me wants to believe that the surge in early voting indicates a swell of civic engagement. Steven P. Dinkin, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Early voting surge: A sign of enthusiasm or exhaustion?," 1 Nov. 2020 Rittenhouse's case has taken on a political edge, with some conservatives portraying him as a patriot who was exercising his right to bear arms during unrest. CBS News, "Accused teen told police "I shot two white kids" after allegedly killing two Kenosha protesters," 31 Oct. 2020 Largely White, the groups generally ban Confederate iconography and aim to present an image connected with the patriot groups of the American Revolution — though members have defended Confederate monuments during efforts this year to take them down. Washington Post, "In Virginia, fight against gun control gives rise to armed militias," 31 Oct. 2020 Rittenhouse's case has become a rallying point for some conservatives who see him as a patriot who was exercising his right to bear arms during unrest. Michael Tarm, Star Tribune, "Illinois authorities extradite Kyle Rittenhouse to Wisconsin," 30 Oct. 2020 In laying the groundwork for a self-defense argument, the teen’s attorneys have painted him as a young patriot who wanted to protect the community and the victim of political conspiracy. Christy Gutowski, chicagotribune.com, "Kyle Rittenhouse cried, vomited and worried about social media as he told Antioch cops ‘I shot two white kids’," 30 Oct. 2020 General Peay is a great American, patriot, and hero. Eric Levenson And Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, "Virginia Military Institute superintendent resigns after allegations of school's racist culture," 26 Oct. 2020

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

1577, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for patriot

Middle French patriote compatriot, from Late Latin patriota, from Greek patriōtēs, from patria lineage, from patr-, patēr father

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Time Traveler for patriot

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The first known use of patriot was in 1577

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Statistics for patriot

Last Updated

24 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Patriot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patriot. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for patriot

patriot

noun
How to pronounce patriot (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of patriot

: a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country

patriot

noun
pa·​tri·​ot | \ ˈpā-trē-ət How to pronounce patriot (audio) \

Kids Definition of patriot

: a person who loves his or her country and strongly supports it

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Comments on patriot

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