Definition of patriarch in English:



  • 1The male head of a family or tribe.

    • ‘When their father had died, even though Tyler was only seven at the time, he had effectively become the patriarch of the family.’
    • ‘But once the patriarch of the family passes away - things fall apart.’
    • ‘As the patriarch, his family must look up to him, honor him.’
    • ‘The family patriarch retired with 54 victories.’
    • ‘The family patriarch makes all decisions regarding living arrangements, children's marriages, and money.’
    • ‘These days he seems happiest playing the family patriarch.’
    • ‘Is he not supposed to be a patriarch to his extended family?’
    • ‘He had become the patriarch of the family, and of a traditional style of singing as well.’
    • ‘The family patriarch, in his 70s, claimed his father built the house.’
    • ‘The close-knit family was headed by a patriarch who made all pivotal decisions.’
    • ‘The father remains the controlling patriarch and resident genius.’
    • ‘After two years, word comes to the family patriarch, their grandfather.’
    • ‘The family patriarch, Jack, makes a foolish decision that affects the rest of the family for decades.’
    • ‘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 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!’
    • ‘He proceeded down the aisle, dressed in the robe of the patriarch of the family.’
    • ‘The consequences - offending the family patriarch and causing the family financial hardship - are considered too large for the sake of a girl.’
    • ‘As the patriarch of the family, my grandfather commanded an enormous amount of respect.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘On his deathbed, a family patriarch agonizes over being able to recognize his grandchildren.’
    1. 1.1 A man who is the oldest or most venerable of a group.
      ‘Hollywood's reigning patriarch rose to speak’
    2. 1.2 A person or thing that is regarded as the founder of something.
      ‘the patriarch of all spin doctors’
      • ‘The death of three national patriarchs within such a short time has always been a suggestive theme.’
      • ‘He is the patriarch of a small, informally organized group engaged in psycho-historical studies.’
  • 2Any of those biblical figures regarded as fathers of the human race, especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the second hymn, we hear a choir of twenty-four elders, perhaps representing the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles.’
    • ‘The mini-series begins with the patriarch, Abraham, confronting those under his care about the idols they have been worshipping.’
    • ‘Some focus on figures of women in the Bible while others investigate various aspects of the patriarchs.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He struggles with God, much as the patriarch Jacob wrestled with the angel.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Our Sages attribute the origin of our three daily prayer services to our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’
    • ‘Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And patriarch Isaac realizes that he's been tricked.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Both Jews and Muslims consider the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph as spiritual ancestors.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The biblical patriarch Abraham called Ur his hometown.’
    • ‘The biblical patriarch Jacob mourned over his son Joseph for 22 years, mistakenly believing that he had been killed by a wild animal.’
    senior figure, father, paterfamilias, leader, elder, grandfather
    guiding light, guru
    View synonyms
  • 3The title of a most senior Orthodox or Catholic bishop, in particular.

    • ‘They have been requesting the title of patriarch for the head of their church, and some church officials are already using this title internally.’
    • ‘There are about a thousand Orthodox Christians in Cuba, and the patriarch was there to dedicate a new church in downtown Havana.’
    • ‘Although Orthodoxy could not accept Roman claims to jurisdiction over all churches, it could accept the bishop of Rome as first among equal patriarchs.’
    • ‘Hence the Greek Orthodox patriarch sat at the top of the Orthodox community, possessing more power under the Ottomans than he had ever enjoyed under the Byzantine emperors.’
    • ‘While the Pope may speak unilaterally with an authority binding on his whole church, no single bishop or patriarch within Orthodoxy has such authority or such a voice.’
    1. 3.1 A bishop of one of the most ancient Christian sees (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and formerly Rome)
      • ‘The most powerful church leaders were the bishop of Rome, called the pope, in the West and the patriarch of Constantinople in the East.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As a result he received the blessing of the Byzantine patriarch and the title of tsar of Bulgaria.’
      • ‘Christians there worshipped in Greek and were subject to the patriarch of Alexandria.’
    2. 3.2 The head of an autocephalous or independent 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 revered Maronite patriarch launched a brave campaign for the restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty.’
      • ‘The tsar was autocrat by divine right, sustained by the endorsement of the autonomous Orthodox church under its patriarch.’
    3. 3.3 A Roman Catholic bishop ranking above primates and metropolitans and immediately below the Pope, often the head of a Uniate community.
      • ‘In 1953 he was made a cardinal and appointed 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.’
      • ‘When monasteries die out, the patriarch sells the property cheaply to pay his bills.’
      • ‘If Roncalli had died as patriarch of Venice, he certainly would not be widely remembered today.’


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