[puh-tur-nl-iz-uh m]


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

Contemporary Examples of paternalistic

Historical Examples of paternalistic

  • Norway has been in the forefront in this paternalistic movement.

    The School System of Norway

    David Allen Anderson

  • He might have planned a program of paternalistic propaganda in behalf of the farmers of the county.

  • Public regulation is regarded as a "paternalistic" survival, quite unsuited to a free and independent people.


    John Dewey and James Hayden Tufts

  • It is always the paternalistic arm of the Government round every little son of Nippon, or the embrace of his family.

    The Pacific Triangle

    Sydney Greenbie

  • That is precisely the kind of tyranny or liberty that was enjoyed by the victims of the paternalistic laws above described.

British Dictionary definitions for paternalistic



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