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 My approach is bare-bones: Bring enough to last roughly four days, patronize the occasional drive-thru, contract scurvy. Sandra Upson, Wired, "A Guide to Safely Holiday Road-Tripping Through a Pandemic," 31 Oct. 2020 With hundreds of members, just one of the rowing groups on the river that already regularly patronize local businesses would be hard to replace with kayakers. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: The Legislature, distance learning, environmental protections, the Mississippi River," 16 Oct. 2020 Niki Batista, who lives in Groton, right across the river from New London, has no plans to patronize a restaurant any time soon, either. NBC News, "'I'm going to church more': Restaurant owners wonder whether they'll survive winter," 30 Oct. 2020 The 1,600 square-foot courtyard has stylish couches and was a contender for our list of spacious patios to patronize during the coronavirus pandemic. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, "25 new restaurants that opened in September and October in Dallas-Fort Worth," 22 Oct. 2020 If a restaurant can’t satisfy her minimum requirements, Kalemkerian, 43, won’t patronize its patio. Washington Post, "Biden predicts ‘dark winter’ as U.S. tops 73,000 coronavirus cases for first time since July," 23 Oct. 2020 At the time, the British government was encouraging people to patronize restaurants and pubs — limited, in theory, to groups of six or fewer — and students eagerly complied. Benjamin Mueller, New York Times, "‘It Really Was Abandonment’: Virus Crisis Grips British Universities," 6 Oct. 2020 Customers presumably won’t patronize establishments that don’t feel safe, forcing them to follow health protocols. Jessie Van Berkel, Star Tribune, "What would Minnesota Republicans do differently than Walz on COVID-19?," 25 Sep. 2020 Many of the customers who patronize the barber shop grew up here and watched as Rogers developed. Arkansas Online, "Remembering Rogers: Walmart No. 1 meant family, country music and training managers," 24 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for patronize

Time Traveler

The first known use of patronize was in 1589

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Statistics for patronize

Last Updated

25 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Patronize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patronize. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

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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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