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[muh-tur-nl] /məˈtɜr nl/
of, pertaining to, having the qualities of, or befitting a mother:
maternal instincts.
related through a mother:
his maternal aunt.
derived from a mother:
maternal genes.
Origin of maternal
1475-85; < Medieval Latin māternālis, equivalent to Latin mātern(us) (māter mother1 + -nus adj. suffix) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
maternalism, noun
maternalistic, adjective
maternally, adverb
nonmaternal, adjective
nonmaternally, adverb
quasi-maternal, adjective
quasi-maternally, adverb
unmaternal, adjective
unmaternally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for maternally
Historical Examples
  • Miss Trevor clasped him close to her and kissed him maternally.

  • She gave him a watering-pot, and watched him maternally; but did not put a hand to it.

    A Simpleton Charles Reade
  • "We'll never get that back on the roof, my dear boy," Alix said maternally.

    Sisters Kathleen Norris
  • Terry Landry asked, patting Sim maternally on her fair head.

  • Where she had meant to be maternally peremptory she became querulous.


    Frank Swinnerton
  • She kissed him maternally on the forehead, then consulted his eyes again.

    L-bas J. K. Huysmans
  • She hovered around me maternally, obviously trying to cheer me.

    The Man in Lower Ten Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • And from to-day, Clmence, you must begin to wear her mourning in your heart, a heart always so maternally disposed towards her.

  • There are maternally protecting arms that can bear them thus, and in the sphere of their life and love their souls would rest.

    Dawn Mrs. Harriet A. Adams
  • He returned to the bosom of Mother Nature, and he felt her re-inforce him maternally with goodness and with strength.

    The Child of Pleasure Gabriele D'Annunzio
British Dictionary definitions for maternally


of, relating to, derived from, or characteristic of a mother
related through the mother's side of the family: his maternal uncle
Derived Forms
maternalism, noun
maternalistic, adjective
maternally, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Medieval Latin māternālis, from Latin māternus, from māter mother
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for maternally



late 15c., from Old French maternel (14c.), from Vulgar Latin *maternalis, from Latin maternus "maternal, of a mother," from mater "mother" (see mother (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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maternally in Medicine

maternal ma·ter·nal (mə-tûr'nəl)

  1. Relating to or characteristic of a mother.

  2. Inherited from one's mother.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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