[ fah-ther-lee ]
/ ˈfɑ ðər li /
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of, like, or befitting a father.
Obsolete. in the manner of a father.
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Origin of fatherly

First recorded before 1000; Middle English faderly, Old English fæderlic. See father, -ly

synonym study for fatherly

1. Fatherly, paternal refer to the relationship of a male parent to his children. Fatherly has emotional connotations; it always suggests a kind, protective, tender, or forbearing attitude: fatherly advice. Paternal may suggest a kindly, proprietary attitude: paternal interest; but it may also be used objectively, as a legal and official term: his paternal grandmother; paternal estate.


fa·ther·li·ness, nounpseu·do·fa·ther·ly, adverbun·fa·ther·ly, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does fatherly mean?

Fatherly is an adjective that most commonly means like a father. It’s especially used in a positive way to describe someone as being kind, nurturing, and protective—like a good father who loves and cares for his child(ren).

Describing someone as fatherly often implies that they listen and give good advice—it’s perhaps most commonly used in the phrase fatherly advice. 

The word paternal 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, and the same is true of the word parental (which can be used regardless of the parent’s gender).

Sometimes, fatherly means of or suitable for a father, as in fatherly instincts. 

Fatherly is most often used to describe fathers themselves, but it can be applied to someone who’s not a father, as in After my dad died, I started relying on Joe for fatherly support. 

Fatherly was once used as an adverb meaning in the manner of a father, but this is no longer common.

Fatherly is one of many similar adjectives based on family relations, including motherly, grandfatherly, grandmotherly, brotherly, and sisterly.

Example: When my stepdad first moved in with us, I could tell that he was trying really hard to be fatherly, and it showed me that he cared.

Where does fatherly come from?

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

The common meaning of fatherly is based not on any father but on a good father, one who is nurturing and compassionate. The phrase fatherly advice typically refers to advice that’s wise, comes from experience, and is intended to help you be the best you can be. Such advice can come from one’s actual father or from a father figure.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to fatherly?

  • fatherliness (noun)
  • unfatherly (adjective)

What are some synonyms for fatherly?

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


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

How is fatherly used in real life?

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



Try using fatherly!

Which of the following actions could be described as fatherly?

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

How to use fatherly in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for fatherly

/ (ˈfɑːðəlɪ) /

of, resembling, or suitable to a father

Derived forms of fatherly

fatherliness, 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