[pey-ter-fuh-mil-ee-uh s, pah-, pat-er-]
See more synonyms for paterfamilias on
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.
  1. the male head of a household or family, usually the father.
  2. 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. 2018

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)
  1. the male head of a household
  2. 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