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[mey-tree-ahrk] /ˈmeɪ triˌɑrk/
the female head of a family or tribal line.
a woman who is the founder or dominant member of a community or group.
a venerable old woman.
1600-10; matri- + -arch
Related forms
matriarchal, matriarchic, adjective
matriarchalism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for matriarchal
  • Whereas, matriarchal societies tend to balance birthrates to the available resources.
  • Females almost never leave their tightly knit matriarchal families.
  • In resident-type whales, they're basically matriarchal societies, where the females are the center of the social structures.
  • As a result, what has all the trappings of a patriarchal culture, actually has many elements of a matriarchal one.
  • The old benign matriarchal government has been captured by males bent on centralized domination.
  • The matriarchal contenders for power are as greedy and bloodthirsty as any testosterone-fueled tyrants of today.
  • Although the group composition of these herds changes constantly, the dominant animal is almost always a matriarchal cow.
  • Elk are organized around a matriarchal society, the herd leaders are older cows.
  • Marriages, which were arranged by parents, usually depended on social status and were matriarchal in nature.
  • The residents travel in large groups called pods, which center on mature females and are considered matriarchal societies.
British Dictionary definitions for matriarchal


a woman who dominates an organization, community, etc
the female head of a tribe or family, esp in a matriarchy
a very old or venerable woman
Derived Forms
matriarchal, (rare) matriarchic, adjective
matriarchalism, noun
Word Origin
C17: from matri- + -arch, by false analogy with patriarch
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 matriarchal

1780 (in reference to bee colonies); see matriarch + -al (1); "patterned after patriarchy" [Barnhart]. Related: Matriarchally.



"mother who heads a family or tribe," c.1600, from matri- + -arch, abstracted from patriarch.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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