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.
Examples of patronize in a Sentence
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 2003She 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. 1987My 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, (1953) 1982
The family patronizes the arts.
He hated being patronized and pitied by those who didn't believe his story.
“I'm sure you did your best even though you failed.” “Please don't patronize.”
I patronize the library regularly. See More
Recent Examples on the WebOne of the social media influencers behind the Airbnb effort also has encouraged his followers to patronize Ukrainian merchants on Etsy but ask sellers not to ship any goods.
Faith Karimi And Samantha Kelly, CNN, 5 Mar. 2022 While the overnight stay is free, members are encouraged to patronize the business where they’re parked.
Richard A. Marini, San Antonio Express-News, 2 Feb. 2022 The core of the plan is those ages 5 and older must be vaccinated to patronize any business that serves food or drink, or gyms, spas and dance studios.
George Castle, chicagotribune.com, 28 Dec. 2021 As a result, we coffee house aficionados who are champing at the bit to be among the first to patronize the new Red Cedar coffee house, will likely have to wait awhile longer.
Rich Heileman, cleveland, 17 Dec. 2021 Among the notables to patronize the cafes were writers Honore de Balzac and Arthur Rimbaud, as well as painters including Eugene Delacroix and Edouard Manet.
Lauren Beale, Forbes, 9 Dec. 2021 Here anyone can gather to watch games or concerts on the arena’s exterior video board, or patronize the project’s 250,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.
Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Dec. 2021 Oakland has moved to join Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood and Berkeley in requiring proof of vaccination to patronize indoor restaurants and gyms.
Los Angeles Times, 27 Dec. 2021 Proof of vaccination or a recent negative test is required to patronize restaurants and cinemas, which has encouraged many reluctant people to get vaccinated without a national mandate.
Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 23 Nov. 2021 See More
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'patronize.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.