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[muh-tur-nl] /məˈtɜr nl/
of, pertaining to, having the qualities of, or befitting a mother:
maternal instincts.
related through a mother:
his maternal aunt.
derived from a mother:
maternal genes.
Origin of maternal
1475-85; < Medieval Latin māternālis, equivalent to Latin mātern(us) (māter mother1 + -nus adj. suffix) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
maternalism, noun
maternalistic, adjective
maternally, adverb
nonmaternal, adjective
nonmaternally, adverb
quasi-maternal, adjective
quasi-maternally, adverb
unmaternal, adjective
unmaternally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for maternal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • These terms were found in avunculus, maternal uncle, and matertera, maternal aunt.

    Ancient Society Lewis Henry Morgan
  • Mary was, in many things, a child; but her attitude had grown to be maternal.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • In practice she still maintained something of maternal authority, often gaining her point by merely seeming offended.

    Demos George Gissing
  • But Mary, regardless of maternal cacklings, sped after the doctor as he turned his horse.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • Whence conjugal duty, paternal or maternal duty, filial duty, and fraternal duty.

    Elements of Morals Paul Janet
British Dictionary definitions for maternal


of, relating to, derived from, or characteristic of a mother
related through the mother's side of the family: his maternal uncle
Derived Forms
maternalism, noun
maternalistic, adjective
maternally, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Medieval Latin māternālis, from Latin māternus, from māter mother
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 maternal

late 15c., from Old French maternel (14c.), from Vulgar Latin *maternalis, from Latin maternus "maternal, of a mother," from mater "mother" (see mother (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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maternal in Medicine

maternal ma·ter·nal (mə-tûr'nəl)

  1. Relating to or characteristic of a mother.

  2. Inherited from one's mother.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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