[ fam-uh-lee, fam-lee ]
See synonyms for: familyfamilies on

noun,plural fam·i·lies.
    • a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family.

    • a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for: a single-parent family.

  1. the children of one person or one couple collectively: We want a large family.

  1. the spouse and children of one person: I'm taking the family on vacation next week.

  2. any group of people closely related by blood or marriage, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins: to marry into a socially prominent family.

  3. all those people considered as descendants of a common progenitor: the Tudor family of England.

  4. Chiefly British. approved lineage, especially noble, titled, famous, or wealthy ancestry: young men of family.

  5. a group of people who form a household under one head, including parents, children, servants, etc.

  6. the staff, or body of assistants, of an official: the presidential family.

  7. a group of people or things that are related by common characteristics, features, or properties: the family of romantic poets; the halogen family of elements.

  8. a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and, frequently, live together: Many hippie communes of the sixties regarded themselves as families. I’m not in contact with my relatives, so my friends are my family.

  9. a group of people who are considered to be united in a common occupation or enterprise: Our volunteers are an important part of our hospital family.

  10. an animal or animals with their young: There goes a duck family crossing the road.

  11. a group of products or product models made by the same manufacturer or producer: Chevrolet's family of cars.

  12. Biology. the usual major subdivision of an order or suborder in the classification of plants, animals, fungi, etc., usually consisting of several genera.

  13. Slang. a unit of an organized crime syndicate, especially the Mafia or Cosa Nostra, operating in one area under a local leader.

  14. Linguistics. the largest category into which languages related by common origin can be classified with certainty: Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, and Austronesian are the most widely spoken families of languages.: Compare stock (def. 12), subfamily (def. 2).

  15. Mathematics.

    • a given class of solutions of the same basic equation, differing from one another only by the different values assigned to the constants in the equation.

    • a class of functions or the like defined by an expression containing a parameter.

    • a set.

  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of a family: a family trait.

  2. belonging to or used by a family: a family automobile; a family room.

  1. suitable or appropriate for adults and children: a family amusement park.

  2. not containing obscene language: The students made a game of looking up swearwords during library time, so the librarian is investing in a new set of family dictionaries.

Idioms about family

  1. in a / the family way, pregnant1 (def. 1).

Origin of family

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English familie, from Latin familia “a household, the slaves of a household, domestics” equivalent to famul(us) “attendant, servant, slave” + -ia noun suffix; see -y3

Grammar notes for family

Other words from family

  • an·ti·fam·i·ly, adjective
  • in·ter·fam·i·ly, adjective

Words Nearby family Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use family in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for family


/ (ˈfæmɪlɪ, ˈfæmlɪ) /

nounplural -lies
    • a primary social group consisting of parents and their offspring, the principal function of which is provision for its members

    • (as modifier): family quarrels; a family unit

  1. one's wife or husband and one's children

  1. one's children, as distinguished from one's husband or wife

  2. a group of persons related by blood; a group descended from a common ancestor: Compare extended family

  3. all the persons living together in one household

  4. any group of related things or beings, esp when scientifically categorized

  5. biology any of the taxonomic groups into which an order is divided and which contains one or more genera. Felidae (cat family) and Canidae (dog family) are two families of the order Carnivora

  6. ecology a group of organisms of the same species living together in a community

  7. a group of historically related languages assumed to derive from one original language

  8. mainly US an independent local group of the Mafia

  9. maths a group of curves or surfaces whose equations differ from a given equation only in the values assigned to one or more constants in each curve: a family of concentric circles

  10. physics the isotopes, collectively, that comprise a radioactive series

  11. in the family way informal pregnant

Origin of family

C15: from Latin familia a household, servants of the house, from famulus servant

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

Scientific definitions for family


[ fămə-lē ]

  1. A group of organisms ranking above a genus and below an order. The names of families end in -ae, a plural ending in Latin. In the animal kingdom, family names end in -idae, as in Canidae (dogs and their kin), while those in the plant kingdom usually end in -aceae, as in Rosaceae (roses and their kin). See Table at taxonomy.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for family


In biology, the classification lower than an order and higher than a genus. Lions, tigers, cheetahs, and house cats belong to the same biological family. Human beings belong to the biological family of hominids. (See Linnean classification.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with family


see in a family way; run in the blood (family).

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.