patronize

verb
pa·​tron·​ize | \ ˈpā-trə-ˌnīz How to pronounce patronize (audio) , ˈpa- How to pronounce patronize (audio) \
patronized; patronizing

Definition of patronize

transitive verb

1 : to act as patron of : provide aid or support for The government patronized several local artists.
2 : to adopt an air of condescension toward : treat haughtily or coolly
3 : to be a frequent or regular customer or client of a restaurant much patronized by celebrities

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Other Words from patronize

patronization \ ˌpā-​trə-​nə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce patronization (audio) , ˌpa-​ \ noun

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.

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 2003 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 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 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web But this is precisely why there is such symbolic value in Ms. Monopoly’s patronizing pointlessness. Because, if nothing else, it’s representative of the vacuous nature of the second type of feminist. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "Ms. Monopoly — the World’s Dumbest Board Game," 12 Sep. 2019 The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wants foreign governments to stop patronizing Trump’s businesses. NBC News, "As Democrats battle each other, Trump's greatest ally is time," 14 Aug. 2019 Joshua Hensley, 38, also faces one count of stalking and one count of patronizing a prostitute, according to the Denver district attorney’s office. Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post, "Suspended male correctional officer at Denver women’s prison charged with attempted pimping," 18 July 2019 Parents can support the AHA’s efforts by patronizing restaurants that offer healthy choices. Cara Rosenbloom, Houston Chronicle, "While companies push sugary beverages, parents should promote water. Here’s how.," 19 June 2019 Parents can support the AHA’s efforts by patronizing restaurants that offer healthy choices. Cara Rosenbloom, Washington Post, "While companies push sugary beverages, parents should promote water. Here’s how.," 19 June 2019 Juanita Abernathy typed up leaflets asking black people not to patronize Montgomery city buses. BostonGlobe.com, "NEW YORK — Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88.," 17 Sep. 2019 The head of the House Foreign Affairs committee is directing the panel's staffers to warn foreign governments not to patronize President Donald Trump's businesses. Dareh Gregorian, NBC News, "Top Democrat urges foreign governments to stop using Trump hotels, paying his businesses," 13 Aug. 2019 Googie architecture was designed to get drivers to stop and patronize roadside businesses. Diana Budds, Curbed, "As the story goes, Googie got its name when the architecture critic Douglas Haskell was driving around Los Angeles researching a story about all the new splashy coffee shops he spied in the city.," 30 May 2019

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.

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First Known Use of patronize

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for patronize

see patron

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Statistics for patronize

Last Updated

31 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for patronize

The first known use of patronize was in 1589

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More Definitions for patronize

patronize

verb
How to pronounce patronize (audio) How to pronounce patronize (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of patronize

: to give money or support to (someone or something)
disapproving : to talk to (someone) in a way that shows that you believe you are more intelligent or better than other people
somewhat formal : to be a frequent or regular customer or user of (a place)

patronize

verb
pa·​tron·​ize | \ ˈpā-trə-ˌnīz How to pronounce patronize (audio) , ˈpa-trə-\
patronized; patronizing

Kids Definition of patronize

1 : to act as a supporter of He patronizes the arts.
2 : to be a customer of She prefers to patronize a neighborhood store.
3 : to treat (a person) as if he or she were not as good or less important

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Comments on patronize

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not being in agreement or harmony

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