patriot

noun

pa·​tri·​ot ˈpā-trē-ət How to pronounce patriot (audio)
-ˌät,
 chiefly British  ˈpa-trē-ət
: 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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More on the Meaning of Patriot

The word patriot signifies a person who loves their 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 Barry Goldwater was a good man, a patriot, honest to a fault. Neal B. Freeman, National Review, 9 July 2024 John Adams, father, lawyer and patriot, first called for an annual festival to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, Baltimore Sun, 3 July 2024 Ultimately, there’s hardly a greater patriot than the one who must strive to make this country their own. New York Daily News Editorial Board, New York Daily News, 20 June 2024 While Crawford portrays himself as a family man and a patriot, prosecutors also pointed to his history of arrests that include lying to police and violating parole as evidence of his poor character. Tribune News Service, The Mercury News, 17 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for patriot 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'patriot.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1577, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of patriot was in 1577

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Cite this Entry

“Patriot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patriot. Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

patriot

noun
pa·​tri·​ot ˈpā-trē-ət How to pronounce patriot (audio)
-trē-ˌät
: a person who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests

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