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tu·​te·​lary ˈtü-tə-ˌler-ē How to pronounce tutelary (audio)
: having the guardianship of a person or a thing
a tutelary goddess
: of or relating to a guardian


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plural tutelaries
: a tutelary power (such as a deity)

Did you know?

Tutelary derives from the Latin noun tutelarius, meaning "guardian." Tutelarius, in turn, was formed by combining the word tutela ("protection" or "guardian") and -arius, a suffix that implies belonging and connection. A more familiar descendant of tutela in English might be tutelage, which initially referred to guardianship or protection, but came to be used to refer to teaching or influence. If you suspect that tutor is also related, you are correct. Tutelary can also be a noun referring to a power (such as a deity) who acts as a guardian.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Even among the eccentric annals of poets who talked to God, angels, tutelary spirits, and disincorporated souls, Fernando Pessoa is a special case. Anahid Nersessian, The New York Review of Books, 7 Oct. 2021 Charles Dickens, whose novels are mentioned several times by narrators, hovers as a kind of tutelary spirit over the book. BostonGlobe.com, 6 May 2021 Above these people rises an immense and tutelary power, which alone takes charge of assuring their pleasures and looking after their fate. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 1 May 2021 There are comedy bits, fabulous costumes (by Toni-Leslie James) and musical interludes, some involving Marilyn Monroe (Sawyer Smith) as a tutelary spirit. Jesse Green, New York Times, 4 June 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tutelary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1652, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tutelary was in 1611


Dictionary Entries Near tutelary

Cite this Entry

“Tutelary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tutelary. Accessed 5 Jun. 2023.

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