Definition of paterfamilias in English:


Pronunciation /ˌpādərfəˈmilēəs//ˌpädərfəˈmilēəs/


  • The male head of a family or household.

    Compare with materfamilias
    • ‘On being asked how they did it, the paterfamilias commented that it was the inevitable result of coming from two covenanted peoples.’
    • ‘The sweet sounds of the banjo are replaced by the elderly paterfamilias, who starts to play a mouth organ.’
    • ‘Late in the film, we discover that the paterfamilias has a gay brother.’
    • ‘That he is a Mormon, a professor, and a paterfamilias adds spice to his mischief.’
    • ‘There is a law of persons, or the family, which reflects Roman family life, with the paterfamilias, the wife and children, and the slaves.’
    • ‘I know that this is changing, particularly among the better-off and better-educated, but many a Bulgarian father, it seems, is still rather like the paterfamilias of old.’
    • ‘The current movie is about a family named Baker, of which the paterfamilias is a small-time college football coach, and the mother is a homemaker.’
    • ‘But the legitimization of the traditional family provided by the paterfamilias doctrine was reaffirmed by conservative courts through a doctrine of ‘family autonomy’ in the 1920s.’
    • ‘At the heart of the Roman family was the paterfamilias, the father of the family.’
    • ‘The paterfamilias or head of the family had the right, in theory at least, to execute summarily any member, including in primis his slaves.’
    • ‘He's a garrulous paterfamilias who has somehow picked up the incongruous metropolitan affectation of a stubby cigarette holder.’
    • ‘Many men still think about fatherhood in terms of the paterfamilias, or traditional father.’
    • ‘In fact I think it's kind of cute, in a Victorian paterfamilias kinda way.’
    • ‘Like women and slaves, children were the property of the paterfamilias and could be sold or abandoned, as girls often were.’
    • ‘Beneath these specific demands, however, and colouring all of them, was a passionate desire to destroy the authority of the paterfamilias.’
    • ‘The genius of the paterfamilias was honored in familial worship as a household god and was thought to perpetuate a family through many generations.’
    • ‘Siva, the paterfamilias, is not present, but his picture, often along with that of other deities, is portrayed in the decorative designs above the image.’
    • ‘It was bad advice that would have put everyone through the grinder in the name of protecting my rights as paterfamilias.’
    • ‘The old image of Dickens, fostered by his surviving family, as a benign paterfamilias and as a man piously wedded to Victorian domestic virtues was thus tarnished.’
    • ‘In the old civic code, the wife was nothing but an accessory to the work of the citizen and paterfamilias.’
    male parent, begetter, patriarch, paterfamilias
    View synonyms


Latin, literally father of the family.