[ 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.

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 paternalistic

British Dictionary definitions for paternalistic


/ (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 paternalistic



"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