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[puh-tur-nl-iz-uh m] /pəˈtɜr nlˌɪz əm/
the system, principle, or practice of managing or governing individuals, businesses, nations, etc., in the manner of a father dealing benevolently and often intrusively with his children:
The employees objected to the paternalism of the old president.
Origin of paternalism
1880-85; paternal + -ism
Related forms
paternalist, noun, adjective
paternalistic, adjective
paternalistically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for paternalistic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He might have planned a program of paternalistic propaganda in behalf of the farmers of the county.

    How To Write Special Feature Articles Willard Grosvenor Bleyer
  • paternalistic control, even when entirely benevolent in intent, is generally harmful in effect.

  • That is precisely the kind of tyranny or liberty that was enjoyed by the victims of the paternalistic laws above described.

  • It is always the paternalistic arm of the Government round every little son of Nippon, or the embrace of his family.

    The Pacific Triangle Sydney Greenbie
  • Public regulation is regarded as a "paternalistic" survival, quite unsuited to a free and independent people.

    Ethics John Dewey and James Hayden Tufts
British Dictionary definitions for paternalistic


the attitude or policy of a government or other authority that manages the affairs of a country, company, community, etc, in the manner of a father, esp in usurping individual responsibility and the liberty of choice
Derived Forms
paternalist, noun, adjective
paternalistic, adjective
paternalistically, adverb
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 paternalistic



"feeling of a father for his children," 1851; "government as by a father over his children," 1866, from paternal + -ism. Related: Paternalistic (1890).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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