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

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 Hewing to such a strategy would require Democrats to pay less attention to some issues that many on their side feel strongly about — allegations that Trump has enriched himself by encouraging foreign governments to patronize his hotels, for example. David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, "Democrats are missing an opportunity to brand Trump as too conservative, poll suggests," 13 Sep. 2019 The island’s thermal springs, such as the popular Poseidon Thermal Gardens, have been patronized by travelers since the Roman era. Elaine Glusac, New York Times, "Summer’s Not Over Yet! 8 Ways to Extend Your Vacation," 2 Sep. 2019 Locals still patronize its bar in the basement of a First Avenue duplex. Nick Ferraro, Twin Cities, "South St. Paul’s Croatian Hall turns 100," 18 Aug. 2019 To address this lull, local businesses and organizations are having events and specials through the summer in an effort to get people to visit and patronize them more. Austen Erblat, sun-sentinel.com, "Summer struggle: Chamber plans special events to promote businesses," 5 Aug. 2019 The suit points to profits from domestic and foreign governments that patronize Trump's businesses, including the Trump International Hotel. Bart Jansen, USA TODAY, "Trump faces uphill battle to keep financial records from Congress after lawyers clash in appeals court," 12 July 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

3 Oct 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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