[ bruhth-er-lee ]
/ ˈbrʌð ər li /
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of, like, or befitting a brother; affectionate and loyal; fraternal: brotherly love.
as a brother; fraternally.
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Origin of brotherly

before 1000; Middle English; Old English brōthorlīc.See brother, -ly


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does brotherly mean?

Brotherly is an adjective that most commonly means like a brother. It’s especially used in a positive way to describe someone as being loyal, supportive, and protective—like a good brother who loves and cares about you.

Describing someone as brotherly sometimes implies that they’re like an older brother who can give good advice.

The word fraternal can be used to mean the same thing, but it can also be used in a more neutral way that doesn’t imply these positive things.

Brotherly is most often used to describe brothers themselves and the brotherly things they do, but it can be applied to someone who’s not a brother, as in I don’t have a brother, but I always rely on Joe for brotherly support. 

It’s sometimes used in a more general way to describe behavior based on treating others with respect and affection, as if they were family members. The word neighborly is similar.

Brotherly can also be used as an adverb meaning in the manner of a brother.

Brotherly is one of many similar terms based on family relations, including sisterly, motherly, fatherly, grandmotherly, and grandfatherly.

Example: I’m lucky that my brothers and I have always shared a brotherly affection—we all support each other.

Where does brotherly come from?

The first records of the word brotherly come from before 1000. The suffix -ly is often used to form adverbs, but in the case of the adjective brotherly it means “like” (i.e., like a brother).

The common meaning of brotherly is based not on any brother but on a good brother, one who is supportive and loyal. The phrase brotherly advice typically refers to advice that comes from experience and is intended to help you be the best you can be. Such advice can come from your actual brother or from a person who’s like a brother to you.

Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love” because that’s what its name means—it comes from the Greek roots philo-, meaning “loving” and adelphos, meaning “brother.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to brotherly?

  • brotherliness (noun)
  • unbrotherly (adjective)

What are some synonyms for brotherly?

  • fraternal
  • fraternally (when brotherly is used as an adverb)

What are some words that share a root or word element with brotherly


What are some words that often get used in discussing brotherly?

How is brotherly used in real life?

Brotherly is usually used in a positive way to describe a man or something he does as being like a good brother. It can be applied to brothers or people who are not brothers.


Try using brotherly!

Which of the following actions could be described as brotherly?

A. giving you good advice
B. supporting you
C. cheering you on
D. all of the above

How to use brotherly in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for brotherly

/ (ˈbrʌðəlɪ) /

of, resembling, or suitable to a brother, esp in showing loyalty and affection; fraternal
in a brotherly way; fraternally

Derived forms of brotherly

brotherliness, noun
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