patriot

noun
pa·​tri·​ot | \ˈpā-trē-ət, -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

loyalist

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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

The further irony is that Trump's statements in Helsinki revealed him yet again to be a loud, but empty-hearted patriot. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Donald Trump Doesn't Care About Democracy. He Only Cares About Himself.," 17 July 2018 Another problem was the tsar’s unwillingness, as a Russian patriot, to let the Germans rescue him. The Economist, "How the royal houses of Europe abandoned the Romanovs," 28 June 2018 Kugler calls Warren Buffett, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist, a patriot. Susan Page And Merdie Nganza, USA TODAY, "Poll: On the 4th, what symbolizes the best (and worst) of America? It depends whom you ask," 2 July 2018 The party decides which ex-communists are repentant patriots (PiS’s ranks are full of such figures), and which are unreformed enemies of the state. The Economist, "Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party is doing lasting damage," 21 Apr. 2018 Both organizations are made up of Americans who can trace their ancestry back to patriots who fought in the Revolutionary War. Jeremy C. Fox, BostonGlobe.com, "From Ohio, a family that loves Boston’s Fourth of July as much as any local," 4 July 2018 Shoemaker Enoch Crosby repeatedly joined loyalist regiments, then slipped away to divulge all to the patriots; he was shot at by both sides but survived to rejoin George Washington’s army. WSJ, "Five Best: Joyce Lee Malcolm," 28 June 2018 The club will also be collecting flowers and fruit for its annual donation to the wounded patriots at Camp Pendleton. Linda Mcintosh, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Daughters of American Revolution recognize mentor," 9 Apr. 2018 The committee launched a national movement to demand that the United States extend support to the Cuban patriots fighting for independence from the Spanish Empire. Paul Ortiz, Time, "One of History's Foremost Anti-Slavery Organizers Is Often Left Out of the Black History Month Story," 31 Jan. 2018

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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Statistics for patriot

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for patriot

The first known use of patriot was in 1577

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More Definitions for patriot

patriot

noun

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 \

Kids Definition of patriot

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

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