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 My father was from the era when Jews were desperate to be patriots. Jay Deitcher, Longreads, "To Love and Protect Each Other — From Bigotry," 29 Sep. 2019 To me, the sinister aspect is this particular group disguises themselves as patriots, Tiffany Broda, the temple’s president, told the Ledger-Enquirer last July. ProPublica, "They Are Racist; Some of Them Have Guns. Inside the White Supremacist Group Hiding in Plain Sight.," 13 Nov. 2019 President Trump has acknowledged farmers’ patience during the trade dispute, frequently referring to them as patriots. Jacob Bunge, WSJ, "Farmers Welcome Trade Truce, Hope for More," 29 June 2019 People who consider Snowden a patriot argue that exposing the N.S.A.’s mass-surveillance program was both a public service and an act of heroism. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, "Edward Snowden and the Rise of Whistle-Blower Culture," 16 Sep. 2019 These incredible patriots responded to the worst violence and most barbaric hatred with the best of American courage, character and strength. CBS News, "Trump honors Dayton and El Paso responders," 9 Sep. 2019 Ahead of us, patriots crouched along the buildings and answered the enemy fire. Washington Post, "AP Was There: Allied forces liberate Paris from Nazis," 25 Aug. 2019 Some unhappy patriots hold plum jobs at the foreign companies under attack. The Economist, "China’s thin-skinned online nationalists want to be both loved and feared by the West," 22 Aug. 2019 Curt Schilling, a great pitcher and patriot, is considering a run for Congress in Arizona. Cindy Boren, courant.com, "Curt Schilling is ‘absolutely considering’ a run for Congress, and Trump approves," 13 Aug. 2019

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of patriot was in 1577

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Statistics for patriot

Last Updated

29 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Patriot.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patriot. Accessed 11 December 2019.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on patriot

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for patriot

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with patriot

Spanish Central: Translation of patriot

Nglish: Translation of patriot for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of patriot for Arabic Speakers

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