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[pey-ter-fuh-mil-ee-uh s, pah-, pat-er-] /ˌpeɪ tər fəˈmɪl i əs, ˌpɑ-, ˌpæt ər-/
noun, plural paterfamiliases for 1, patresfamilias
[pey-treez-fuh-mil-ee-uh s, pah-, pa-] /ˌpeɪ triz fəˈmɪl i əs, ˌpɑ-, ˌpæ-/ (Show IPA),
for 2.
the male head of a household or family, usually the father.
Roman Law.
  1. the head of the Roman family; a juridical entity who holds the patria potestas.
  2. a person who is not under the patria potestas of another.
Origin of paterfamilias
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English < Latin: literally, father (i.e., master) of the household, with archaic genitive form familiās of familia; see family
Related forms
paterfamiliar, adjective
paterfamiliarly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for paterfamilias
  • But here it is-ready to be declaimed from a lectern by the paterfamilias rather than held on your lap.
  • The moody father is transformed overnight into the benevolent paterfamilias.
  • paterfamilias stop- ped a moment, looked about him inquiringly, and seeing what he thought to be his enemy made a second dash.
  • paterfamilias said this long ago, and in some instances he has vain-ly been trying to join them ever since.
British Dictionary definitions for paterfamilias


noun (pl) patresfamilias (ˌpɑːtreɪzfəˈmɪlɪˌæs)
the male head of a household
(Roman law)
  1. the head of a household having authority over its members
  2. the parental or other authority of another person
Word Origin
Latin: father of the family
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 paterfamilias

early 15c., from Latin pater familias "master of a house, head of a family," from pater "father" (see father (n.)) + familias, old genitive of familia "family" (see family).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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