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[fam-uh-lee, fam-lee] /ˈfæm ə li, ˈfæm li/
noun, plural families.
  1. a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not:
    the traditional family.
  2. a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for:
    a single-parent family.
the children of one person or one couple collectively:
We want a large family.
the spouse and children of one person:
We're taking the family on vacation next week.
any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins:
to marry into a socially prominent family.
all those persons considered as descendants of a common progenitor.
Chiefly British. approved lineage, especially noble, titled, famous, or wealthy ancestry:
young men of family.
a group of persons who form a household under one head, including parents, children, and servants.
the staff, or body of assistants, of an official:
the office family.
a group of related things or people:
the family of romantic poets; the halogen family of elements.
a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals and, frequently, live together:
Many hippie communes of the sixties regarded themselves as families.
a group of products or product models made by the same manufacturer or producer.
Biology. the usual major subdivision of an order or suborder in the classification of plants, animals, fungi, etc., usually consisting of several genera.
Slang. a unit of the Mafia or Cosa Nostra operating in one area under a local leader.
Linguistics. the largest category into which languages related by common origin can be classified with certainty:
Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, and Austronesian are the most widely spoken families of languages.
Compare stock (def 12), subfamily (def 2).
  1. a given class of solutions of the same basic equation, differing from one another only by the different values assigned to the constants in the equation.
  2. a class of functions or the like defined by an expression containing a parameter.
  3. a set.
of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a family:
a family trait.
belonging to or used by a family:
a family automobile; a family room.
suitable or appropriate for adults and children:
a family amusement park.
not containing obscene language:
a family newspaper.
in a / the family way, pregnant.
1350-1400; Middle English familie < Latin familia a household, the slaves of a household, equivalent to famul(us) servant, slave + -ia -y3
Related forms
antifamily, adjective
interfamily, adjective
Usage note Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for in the family way


/ˈfæmɪlɪ; ˈfæmlɪ/
noun (pl) -lies
  1. a primary social group consisting of parents and their offspring, the principal function of which is provision for its members
  2. (as modifier) family quarrels, a family unit
one's wife or husband and one's children
one's children, as distinguished from one's husband or wife
a group of persons related by blood; a group descended from a common ancestor Compare extended family
all the persons living together in one household
any group of related things or beings, esp when scientifically categorized
(biology) any of the taxonomic groups into which an order is divided and which contains one or more genera. Felidae (cat family) and Canidae (dog family) are two families of the order Carnivora
(ecology) a group of organisms of the same species living together in a community
a group of historically related languages assumed to derive from one original language
(mainly US) an independent local group of the Mafia
(maths) a group of curves or surfaces whose equations differ from a given equation only in the values assigned to one or more constants in each curve a family of concentric circles
(physics) the isotopes, collectively, that comprise a radioactive series
(informal) in the family way, pregnant
Word Origin
C15: from Latin familia a household, servants of the house, from famulus servant
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
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Word Origin and History for in the family way
c.1400, "servants of a household," from L. familia "household," including relatives and servants, from famulus "servant," of unknown origin. The classical L. sense recorded in Eng. from 1545; the main modern sense of "those connected by blood" (whether living together or not) is first attested 1667. Replaced O.E. hiwscipe. Buzzword family values first recorded 1966. Phrase in a family way "pregnant" is from 1796. Family circle is 1809; family man, one devoted to wife and children, is 1856 (earlier it meant "thief," 1788, from family in slang sense of "the fraternity of thieves").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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in the family way in Medicine

family fam·i·ly (fām'ə-lē, fām'lē)

  1. A group of blood relatives, especially parents and their children.

  2. A taxonomic category of related organisms ranking below an order and above a genus.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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in the family way in Science
A group of organisms ranking above a genus and below an order. The names of families end in -ae, a plural ending in Latin. In the animal kingdom, family names end in -idae, as in Canidae (dogs and their kin), while those in the plant kingdom usually end in -aceae, as in Rosaceae (roses and their kin). See Table at taxonomy.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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in the family way in Culture

family definition

In biology, the classification lower than an order and higher than a genus. Lions, tigers, cheetahs, and house cats belong to the same biological family. Human beings belong to the biological family of hominids. (See Linnean classification.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for in the family way

in the family way


Pregnant •Euphemistic: had got them in the family way (1740s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with in the family way
Pregnant, as in Mary's in the family way again. This euphemistic expression dates from the late 1700s and may be dying out.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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