verb pa·tron·ize \ˈpā-trə-ˌnīz, ˈpa-\

Definition of patronize




  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to act as patron of :  provide aid or support for The government patronized several local artists.

  3. 2 :  to adopt an air of condescension toward :  treat haughtily or coolly

  4. 3 :  to be a frequent or regular customer or client of a restaurant much patronized by celebrities


play \ˌpā-trə-nə-ˈzā-shən, ˌpa-\ noun


play \ˈpā-trə-ˌnī-ziŋ-lē, ˈpa-\ adverb

Examples of patronize in a sentence

  1. For the court to come around, at this late date, to acknowledging our existence as “free persons” is shockingly patronizing; it's condescension that has been cast as liberation. —John Cloud, Time, 7 July 2003

  2. She spoke dryly, but she had to admit that the girl did not mean to patronize, and was pleasant, the way she talked right to Stephen instead of across him the way most people did. —Ursula K. Le Guin, New Yorker, 28 Sept. 1987

  3. My feelings seem to have been confused and blurred, tinged with sentimentality, colored by a great deal of folklore, and wobbling always between a patronizing affection, fostered by my elders, and downright hostility. —William Styron, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, (l953) 1982

  4. The family patronizes the arts.

  5. He hated being patronized and pitied by those who didn't believe his story.

  6. I'm sure you did your best even though you failed. Please don't patronize.

  7. I patronize the library regularly.

What Does patronize Mean?

The various meanings of patronize can easily be distinguished if you consider which sense of patron they allude to. Patronize in the sense “to provide aid or support for” refers to the sort of patron who gives money or assistance. Such a person might, for example, patronize the arts. A second sense of patronize involves the kind of patron who is “a frequent or regular customer” of a business – someone, for example, who patronizes a store. A third use of patronize carries a distinctively negative meaning: “to adopt an air of condescension toward.” This sense presumably developed from the idea of a wealthy and powerful patron who adopts a superior attitude towards his (or her) dependent. Nowadays, someone who patronizes (or whose behavior is patronizing) in this sense more often expresses a sense of moral or intellectual than of social superiority.

What Is the Difference Between condescending and patronizing?

Very few words in English have exactly the same meaning; even words which appear to be entirely synonymous often will be found to have small differences in certain contexts. The words condescending and patronizing present a fine example of this. At first glance these words appear to be defined somewhat circularly: condescending often has the word "patronizing" in its definition, and patronize is defined, in part, as “to adopt an air of condescension toward.”

But both of these words have specialized senses that lend a shade of meaning to their synonymous senses. Patronizing can mean "giving support to" or "being a customer of," suggesting that the "condescending" sense implies superiority gained through a donor-dependent relationship.

The verb condescend used to be free of any hint of the offensive superiority it usually suggests today. It could mean literally "to go or come down" or, figuratively, "to willingly lower oneself to another’s level," senses that are still occasionally encountered in writings on the Bible. The idea of self-consciously lowering oneself is implied in the "patronizing" sense of condescending.

Origin and Etymology of patronize

see patron

First Known Use: 1589

PATRONIZE Defined for English Language Learners


verb pa·tron·ize \ˈpā-trə-ˌnīz, ˈpa-\

Definition of patronize for English Language Learners

  • : to give money or support to (someone or something)

  • : to talk to (someone) in a way that shows that you believe you are more intelligent or better than other people

  • : to be a frequent or regular customer or user of (a place)

PATRONIZE Defined for Kids


verb pa·tron·ize \ˈpā-trə-ˌnīz, ˈpa-trə-\

Definition of patronize for Students




  1. 1 :  to act as a supporter of He patronizes the arts.

  2. 2 :  to be a customer of She prefers to patronize a neighborhood store.

  3. 3 :  to treat (a person) as if he or she were not as good or less important

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up patronize? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a trip made at another's expense

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