patronize

verb
pa·​tron·​ize | \ ˈpā-trə-ˌnīz , ˈpa- \
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 , ˌpa-​ \ noun
patronizingly \ ˈpā-​trə-​ˌnī-​ziŋ-​lē , ˈpa-​ \ adverb

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

And some groups that used to hold events at the club now steer clear to avoid controversy over patronizing the president’s playground. Jill Colvin, The Seattle Times, "Trump arrives at his comfort zone at ‘winter White House’," 20 Nov. 2018 Typically patronized by businesspeople in dress clothes, Josephine falls on the fancier side of brunch. Kristin Luna, Condé Nast Traveler, "11 Best Places for Brunch in Nashville," 27 Feb. 2018 How many of those bars would a person be comfortable patronizing sober? Marley Marius, Vogue, "A Guide to Low-Key (But Still Luxe) Las Vegas," 22 Oct. 2018 David Paul Mobley Beech Grove councilman David Paul Mobley remained on the council after his 2013 arrest for patronizing a prostitute. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "Curtis Hill and 13 other Indiana politicians caught in alleged sexual misconduct controversies," 3 July 2018 Customers who share the same values or politics as outspoken businesses are more likely to patronize them. Zlati Meyer, USA TODAY, "Trump v. Red Hen: What's the cost when business becomes personal?," 25 June 2018 Te Velde was arrested in August in Washington on charges of patronizing a prostitute and possession of methamphetamine. Molly Harbarger, OregonLive.com, "Oregon officials say they plan to stop mega-dairy violations -- again," 17 May 2018 To liken patients to cowering toadies is to patronize them. Kevin Canfield, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Natural Causes,’ by Barbara Ehrenreich," 3 May 2018 Like any neighborhood kopitiam, it is patronized by residents from around the area, many of who have been coming here for decades. Annette Tan, Condé Nast Traveler, "16 Best Cafes in Singapore," 4 Mar. 2018

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

7 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for patronize

The first known use of patronize was in 1589

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More Definitions for patronize

patronize

verb

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 , 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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