twelve patriarchs

plural noun

See under patriarch(def 5).




the male head of a family or tribal line.
a person regarded as the father or founder of an order, class, etc.
any of the very early Biblical personages regarded as the fathers of the human race, comprising those from Adam to Noah (antediluvian patriarchs) and those between the Deluge and the birth of Abraham.
any of the three great progenitors of the Israelites: Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.
any of the sons of Jacob (the twelve patriarchs), from whom the tribes of Israel were descended.
(in the early Christian church) any of the bishops of any of the ancient sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, or Rome having authority over other bishops.
Greek Orthodox Church. the head of any of the ancient sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, or Jerusalem, and sometimes including other sees of chief cities.Compare ecumenical patriarch.
the head of certain other churches in the East, as the Coptic, Nestorian, and Armenian churches, that are not in full communication with the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople.
Roman Catholic Church.
  1. the pope as patriarch of the West.
  2. any of certain bishops of the Eastern rites, as a head of an Eastern rite or a bishop of one of the ancient sees.
  3. the head of a Uniate church.
Mormon Church. any of the high dignitaries who pronounce the blessing of the church; Evangelist.
one of the elders or leading older members of a community.
a venerable old man.

Origin of patriarch

1175–1225; Middle English patriark(e) (< Old French) < Late Latin patriarcha < Late Greek patriárchēs high-ranking bishop, Greek: family head equivalent to patri(á) family, derivative of patḗr father + -archēs -arch
Related formspa·tri·ar·chal, pa·tri·ar·chic, pa·tri·ar·chi·cal, adjectivepa·tri·arch·dom, pa·tri·arch·ship, nounan·ti·pa·tri·arch, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for twelve patriarchs



the male head of a tribe or familyCompare matriarch (def. 2)
a very old or venerable man
Old Testament any of a number of persons regarded as the fathers of the human race, divided into the antediluvian patriarchs, from Adam to Noah, and the postdiluvian, from Noah to Abraham
Old Testament any of the three ancestors of the Hebrew people: Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob
Old Testament any of Jacob's twelve sons, regarded as the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel
Early Church the bishop of one of several principal sees, esp those of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria
Eastern Orthodox Church the bishops of the four ancient principal sees of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, and also of Russia, Romania, and Serbia, the bishop of Constantinople (the ecumenical Patriarch) being highest in dignity among these
RC Church
  1. a title given to the pope
  2. a title given to a number of bishops, esp of the Uniat Churches, indicating their rank as immediately below that of the pope
Mormon Church another word for Evangelist (def. 2)
Eastern Christianity the head of the Coptic, Armenian, Syrian Jacobite, or Nestorian Churches, and of certain other non-Orthodox Churches in the East
the oldest or most venerable member of a group, community, etcthe patriarch of steam engines
a person regarded as the founder of a community, tradition, etc
Derived Formspatriarchal, adjectivepatriarchally, adverb

Word Origin for patriarch

C12: via Old French from Church Latin patriarcha
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 twelve patriarchs



late 12c., from Old French patriarche "one of the Old Testament fathers" (11c.) and directly from Late Latin patriarcha (Tertullian), from Greek patriarkhes "chief or head of a family," from patria "family, clan," from pater "father" (see father (n.)) + arkhein "to rule" (see archon). Also used as an honorific title of certain bishops in the early Church, notably those of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper