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 Amazingly, these are just a few of the achievements that filled the remarkable life of an American patriot. Alice George, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why John Glenn Couldn’t Escape the Hero Label," 9 Dec. 2020 Berry farmer Walter Knott converted his produce stand into a patriot-themed park, including a replica of Independence Hall. Los Angeles Times, "From the KKK to skinheads, a century of fighting hate in Orange County," 21 Mar. 2021 The Countess Walewska Premium Vodka is named for the Polish patriot and mistress of Napoleon. Patricia Doherty, Travel + Leisure, "This Female Distiller Released a Line of Spirits Dedicated to Incredible Women Throughout History," 18 Mar. 2021 Bon grew into an anti-Communist South Vietnamese patriot, and unbeknown to him, Man and the narrator became Communists. Jenny Shank, Star Tribune, "Review: 'The Committed,' by Viet Thanh Nguyen," 26 Feb. 2021 Conservatives upset over property destruction during some protests against police brutality last summer have portrayed him as a patriot exercising his right to bear arms and raised the $2 million Rittenhouse needed to get out of jail. Todd Richmond, ajc, "Judge sets bail hearing for Kyle Rittenhouse next week," 5 Feb. 2021 There are some, for example, who would call Colin Kaepernick a patriot. Amir Vera, CNN, "What exactly does it mean to be a patriot? Experts say it's not easy to define," 30 Jan. 2021 Oh, great — a treasonous terrorist masquerading as a patriot. Jodi Walker, EW.com, "The Blacklist recap: The greater good," 27 Feb. 2021 But there are also pop culture disagreements around what constitutes a patriot. Amir Vera, CNN, "What exactly does it mean to be a patriot? Experts say it's not easy to define," 30 Jan. 2021

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

11 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Patriot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patriot. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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 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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