Definition of patriarch in English:



  • 1The male head of a family or tribe.

    • ‘The family patriarch, Jack, makes a foolish decision that affects the rest of the family for decades.’
    • ‘The father remains the controlling patriarch and resident genius.’
    • ‘The family patriarch retired with 54 victories.’
    • ‘The consequences - offending the family patriarch and causing the family financial hardship - are considered too large for the sake of a girl.’
    • ‘The head of the house is the elderly father or the patriarch of the family, and the mother has authority over her daughter-in-law.’
    • ‘He had become the patriarch of the family, and of a traditional style of singing as well.’
    • ‘As the patriarch, his family must look up to him, honor him.’
    • ‘Is he not supposed to be a patriarch to his extended family?’
    • ‘The family patriarch makes all decisions regarding living arrangements, children's marriages, and money.’
    • ‘When their father had died, even though Tyler was only seven at the time, he had effectively become the patriarch of the family.’
    • ‘The family patriarch, in his 70s, claimed his father built the house.’
    • ‘However, for this form of family to succeed, it must be wealthy and have a strong patriarch, diverse business interests, compliant daughters-in-law, and lineage support.’
    • ‘The close-knit family was headed by a patriarch who made all pivotal decisions.’
    • ‘On his deathbed, a family patriarch agonizes over being able to recognize his grandchildren.’
    • ‘The patriarch of the family cautiously goes into the kitchen only to find that there is only a half quart of milk and two slices of bread left!’
    • ‘After two years, word comes to the family patriarch, their grandfather.’
    • ‘As the patriarch of the family, my grandfather commanded an enormous amount of respect.’
    • ‘He proceeded down the aisle, dressed in the robe of the patriarch of the family.’
    • ‘But once the patriarch of the family passes away - things fall apart.’
    • ‘These days he seems happiest playing the family patriarch.’
    1. 1.1An older man who is powerful within an organization.
      ‘Hollywood's reigning patriarch rose to speak’
    2. 1.2The male founder of something.
      ‘he's the patriarch of all spin doctors’
      • ‘He is the patriarch of a small, informally organized group engaged in psycho-historical studies.’
      • ‘The death of three national patriarchs within such a short time has always been a suggestive theme.’
  • 2Any of those biblical figures regarded as fathers of the human race, especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their forefathers, or the sons of Jacob.

    • ‘The biblical patriarch Abraham and Babylonian King Hammurabi lived in what is today Iraq, while Imam Ali, the founder of Shiite Islam, died there.’
    • ‘In the Genesis 27 story, the patriarch Isaac promises to bless his older and favorite son Esau if Esau will kill a deer, prepare the meat, and bring it to him.’
    • ‘The biblical patriarch Jacob mourned over his son Joseph for 22 years, mistakenly believing that he had been killed by a wild animal.’
    • ‘Though the domed tomb is revered by Muslims as the burial place of a medieval sheikh, it is regarded in some Jewish circles as the burial spot of the biblical patriarch Joseph.’
    • ‘Islam is sometimes called the ‘third Abrahamic tradition’ for its reliance on the patriarchal figure of Abraham, the same patriarch revered in Judaism and Christianity.’
    • ‘For Jews and Christians, it is part of the Holy Land, sacred for its connection to the Jewish patriarchs Abraham and Moses, as well as Christian biblical figures such as John the Baptist.’
    • ‘And patriarch Isaac realizes that he's been tricked.’
    • ‘The Sages tell us that the patriarch Jacob, after a 22-year separation from his son Joseph, finally went down to Egypt to see him.’
    • ‘This itself is interesting as it has been remarked upon by a number of scholars that, among the patriarchs, Isaac seems to have gotten short shrift literarily.’
    • ‘The biblical patriarch Abraham called Ur his hometown.’
    • ‘Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.’
    • ‘Both Jews and Muslims consider the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph as spiritual ancestors.’
    • ‘He struggles with God, much as the patriarch Jacob wrestled with the angel.’
    • ‘It is the language of the Psalms, the stories of the patriarchs, the parables of the gospels, the moral vocabulary of St. Paul's epistles.’
    • ‘The mini-series begins with the patriarch, Abraham, confronting those under his care about the idols they have been worshipping.’
    • ‘War broke out between the four Sumerian kings and the five Canaanite kings, and in the ensuing conflict Lot, a Sodom resident and nephew of the patriarch Abraham, was abducted.’
    • ‘Some focus on figures of women in the Bible while others investigate various aspects of the patriarchs.’
    • ‘In the second hymn, we hear a choir of twenty-four elders, perhaps representing the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles.’
    • ‘Our Sages attribute the origin of our three daily prayer services to our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’
    • ‘Each of the three Biblical patriarchs is regarded as the exemplar of a particular trait, and Abraham is remembered above all for his acts of loving-kindness.’
    senior figure, father, paterfamilias, leader, elder, grandfather
    guiding light, guru
    View synonyms
  • 3A bishop of one of the most ancient Christian sees (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and formerly Rome).

    • ‘Christians there worshipped in Greek and were subject to the patriarch of Alexandria.’
    • ‘As a result he received the blessing of the Byzantine patriarch and the title of tsar of Bulgaria.’
    • ‘The bishop of Jerusalem, who had been given the title of patriarch in 451 by the Council of Chalcedon, had jurisdiction over Palestine.’
    • ‘The former, a patriarch of Alexandria, could be hardly suspected of partiality to the enemies of Christianity.’
    • ‘The most powerful church leaders were the bishop of Rome, called the pope, in the West and the patriarch of Constantinople in the East.’
    1. 3.1The head of an autocephalous or independent Orthodox Church.
      ‘Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia’
      • ‘In the seventh century matters were further complicated when the Maronites, found chiefly in Mount Lebanon, also broke away from the Orthodox church and appointed their own patriarch.’
      • ‘The tsar was autocrat by divine right, sustained by the endorsement of the autonomous Orthodox church under its patriarch.’
      • ‘The revered Maronite patriarch launched a brave campaign for the restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty.’
      • ‘The alternative synod representatives said they would ask for the summoning of a church-people's council to elect a legitimate patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.’
      • ‘It was named after Evtimii Turnovski, a renowned religious and literary figure who lived during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and was a patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church from 1375 to 1393.’
    2. 3.2A Roman Catholic bishop ranking above primates and metropolitans and immediately below the Pope, often the head of a Uniate community.
      ‘Patriarch of Venice’
      • ‘This difference was sort of the last in a long line of differences in practice and belief, and pope and patriarch excommunicated one another.’
      • ‘In 1953 he was made a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice.’
      • ‘If Roncalli had died as patriarch of Venice, he certainly would not be widely remembered today.’
      • ‘When monasteries die out, the patriarch sells the property cheaply to pay his bills.’


Middle English: from Old French patriarche, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek patriarkhēs, from patria family + arkhēs ruling.