[pey-ter-fuh-mil-ee-uh s, pah-, pat-er-]

noun, plural pa·ter·fa·mil·i·as·es for 1, pa·tres·fa·mil·i·as [pey-treez-fuh-mil-ee-uh s, pah-, pa-] /ˌpeɪ triz fəˈmɪl i əs, ˌpɑ-, ˌpæ-/ for 2.

the male head of a household or family, usually the father.
Roman Law.
  1. the head of the Roman family; a juridical entity who holds the patria potestas.
  2. a person who is not under the patria potestas of another.

Origin of paterfamilias

1425–75; late Middle English < Latin: literally, father (i.e., master) of the household, with archaic genitive form familiās of familia; see family
Related formspa·ter·fa·mil·iar, adjectivepa·ter·fa·mil·iar·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for paterfamilias

Contemporary Examples of paterfamilias

  • Motilal, the Nehru paterfamilias, had his suits made in Savile Row.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Hold Onto Your Penis

    David Frum, Justin Green

    November 29, 2012

Historical Examples of paterfamilias

  • Mr. Schmuck was an excellent "paterfamilias," and took great care of children.

    Debts of Honor

    Maurus Jkai

  • It is the distribution that must be looked to; it is the paterfamilias that is wanting in the State.

    Crotchet Castle

    Thomas Love Peacock

  • Well,” said I, “it was either the Lewis gun or Paterfamilias the grim.

    Great Britain at War

    Jeffery Farnol

  • This self-indulgence on your part, my dear Paterfamilias, is weak, vain—not to say culpable.

    Roundabout Papers

    William Makepeace Thackeray

  • It is the first labour of every governing man, from Paterfamilias to Dominus Rex.

    Past and Present

    Thomas Carlyle

British Dictionary definitions for paterfamilias


noun plural patresfamilias (ˌpɑːtreɪzfəˈmɪlɪˌæs)

the male head of a household
Roman law
  1. the head of a household having authority over its members
  2. the parental or other authority of another person

Word Origin for paterfamilias

Latin: father of the family
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

Word Origin and History for paterfamilias

early 15c., from Latin pater familias "master of a house, head of a family," from pater "father" (see father (n.)) + familias, old genitive of familia "family" (see family).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper