[ puh-tur-nl-iz-uh m ]
/ pəˈtɜr nlˌɪz əm /


the system, principle, or practice of managing or governing individuals, businesses, nations, etc., in the manner of a father dealing benevolently and often intrusively with his children: The employees objected to the paternalism of the old president.


Nearby words

  1. pater,
  2. pater patriae,
  3. pater, walter horatio,
  4. paterfamilias,
  5. paternal,
  6. paternalist,
  7. paternalistic,
  8. paternally,
  9. paternity,
  10. paternity leave

Origin of paternalism

First recorded in 1880–85; paternal + -ism

Related formspa·ter·nal·ist, noun, adjectivepa·ter·nal·is·tic, adjectivepa·ter·nal·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for paternalism

British Dictionary definitions for paternalism


/ (pəˈtɜːnəˌlɪzəm) /


the attitude or policy of a government or other authority that manages the affairs of a country, company, community, etc, in the manner of a father, esp in usurping individual responsibility and the liberty of choice
Derived Formspaternalist, noun, adjectivepaternalistic, adjectivepaternalistically, adverb

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 paternalism



"feeling of a father for his children," 1851; "government as by a father over his children," 1866, from paternal + -ism. Related: Paternalistic (1890).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper