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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for maternally
Historical Examples
  • The ewes watched them maternally, or stood patiently to be tugged by the full woolly breasts.

    The High Heart Basil King
  • Miss Trevor clasped him close to her and kissed him maternally.

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

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

    A Simpleton Charles Reade
  • Terry Landry asked, patting Sim maternally on her fair head.

  • 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.

  • She had the general appearance of a white rabbit and the manners of a maternally intentioned but none too efficient hen.

    Rimrock Trail J. Allan Dunn
  • 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
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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