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

Thirty-eight-year-old Joshua David Hensley was arrested Wednesday by the Denver Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit for investigation of two counts of attempted pimping and one count of patronizing a prostitute, Denver police said. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "Male correctional officer at Denver women’s prison arrested for allegedly attempting to pimp women," 5 July 2019 King did not end up testifying against Bemer, a Glastonbury businessman who was convicted of being an accessory to human trafficking and four counts of patronizing a trafficked person. David Owens, courant.com, "Leader of Danbury-based sex trafficking ring sentenced to 4½ years in prison," 19 June 2019 Locals that patronized Metro will miss the nice people that worked there and the convenience of its location. Helen Williams, nola.com, "Gretna institution closes its doors," 21 June 2019 Whoever attempt to patronize and bully the Chinese people in any name, or preach a 'clash of civilizations' to resist the trend of times will never succeed. Fox News, "China chides Mike Pompeo after he calls on them to reveal Tiananmen Square death toll," 5 June 2019 Granik’s restraint as a filmmaker lets her indulge this kind of storytelling without patronizing, fetishizing, or aestheticizing her subjects. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The 21 best movies of 2018," 14 Dec. 2018 Bemer has been charged with patronizing a trafficked person in connection with ring based in Danbury. Fox News, "Lawsuit claims man suspected in sex trafficking ring has HIV," 16 May 2018 Charges are being sought through the District Attorney's Office against the man for patronizing a prostitute, and against the 20-year-old woman for prostitution, obstructing an officer and possession of marijuana. Bill Kurtz, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Police seek prostitution-related charges against two in Thiensville incident," 17 Apr. 2018 Eight of the 11 men charged with patronizing a prostitute were from Delaware. Margie Fishman, azcentral, "Backpage.com is a Delaware LLC in 'good standing'," 7 Apr. 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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Learn More about patronize

Statistics for patronize

Last Updated

11 Jul 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 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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