tu·​te·​lary | \ ˈtü-tə-ˌler-ē How to pronounce tutelary (audio) , ˈtyü- \

Definition of tutelary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having the guardianship of a person or a thing a tutelary goddess
2 : of or relating to a guardian


plural tutelaries

Definition of tutelary (Entry 2 of 2)

: a tutelary power (such as a deity)

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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 described an act or process of serving as a guardian or protector but has also come 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.

Examples of tutelary in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective And so, the columns and pixels this week have been filled with examples, meant to be tutelary, or shaming—but there’s no shaming Trump—of concession speeches past by gracious Presidential losers. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Democracy Depends on Good Losers," 14 Nov. 2020 This novel's other tutelary spirit is Salman Rushdie, who not only blurbs it but also is discussed or invoked several times within. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brookfield Central grad Ayad Akhtar's new novel depicts the unease of being a brown Muslim in the U.S.," 9 Sep. 2020 A year before the reissue was published, Holleran reviewed a book about Henry James, who hovers as a tutelary spirit over much of his work. Garth Greenwell, The New Yorker, "“Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited” and the Inner Life of Catastrophe," 15 Apr. 2020 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, "Review: In ‘Ms. Blakk for President,’ a Winning Losing Campaign," 4 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tutelary.' 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 tutelary


1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1652, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for tutelary

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The first known use of tutelary was in 1611

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Last Updated

18 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tutelary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tutelary. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.

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