Definition of patriarch in US English:



  • 1The male head of a family or tribe.

    • ‘The family patriarch retired with 54 victories.’
    • ‘He proceeded down the aisle, dressed in the robe of the patriarch of the family.’
    • ‘He had become the patriarch of the family, and of a traditional style of singing as well.’
    • ‘The father remains the controlling patriarch and resident genius.’
    • ‘As the patriarch of the family, my grandfather commanded an enormous amount of respect.’
    • ‘Is he not supposed to be a patriarch to his extended family?’
    • ‘After two years, word comes to the family patriarch, their grandfather.’
    • ‘When their father had died, even though Tyler was only seven at the time, he had effectively become the patriarch of the family.’
    • ‘The close-knit family was headed by a patriarch who made all pivotal decisions.’
    • ‘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!’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But once the patriarch of the family passes away - things fall apart.’
    • ‘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, his family must look up to him, honor him.’
    • ‘On his deathbed, a family patriarch agonizes over being able to recognize his grandchildren.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These days he seems happiest playing the family patriarch.’
    • ‘The family patriarch, Jack, makes a foolish decision that affects the rest of the family for decades.’
    • ‘The family patriarch makes all decisions regarding living arrangements, children's marriages, and money.’
    • ‘The family patriarch, in his 70s, claimed his father built the house.’
    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’
      • ‘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.

    • ‘He struggles with God, much as the patriarch Jacob wrestled with the angel.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The mini-series begins with the patriarch, Abraham, confronting those under his care about the idols they have been worshipping.’
    • ‘Both Jews and Muslims consider the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph as spiritual ancestors.’
    • ‘The biblical patriarch Abraham and Babylonian King Hammurabi lived in what is today Iraq, while Imam Ali, the founder of Shiite Islam, died there.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Our Sages attribute the origin of our three daily prayer services to our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And patriarch Isaac realizes that he's been tricked.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    senior figure, father, paterfamilias, leader, elder, grandfather
    View synonyms
  • 3A bishop of one of the most ancient Christian sees (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and formerly Rome).

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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. 3.1 The head of an autocephalous or independent 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 3.2 A Roman Catholic bishop ranking above primates and metropolitans and immediately below the Pope, often the head of a Uniate community.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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’.