Definition of maternal in English:

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Pronunciation: /məˈtərnl/


1Relating to a mother, especially during pregnancy or shortly after childbirth: maternal age maternal care
More example sentences
  • There was no evidence to show an effect of maternal or paternal age on the frequency of nondisjunction.
  • In addition, the female fetus itself influenced the course of maternal asthma through pregnancy.
  • First is the inherent colinearity between maternal smoking in pregnancy and childhood.
on one's mother's side
dated on the distaff side
1.1 [attributive] Related through the mother’s side of the family: my maternal grandfather
More example sentences
  • I'm not sure about the maternal side of the family, but I don't think it is any further back than that.
  • It is not just passed on from the maternal side of the family and may affect siblings differently.
  • I just am concerned with letting her bond with her maternal side of the family.
1.2Denoting feelings associated with or typical of a mother; motherly: maternal instincts
More example sentences
  • But, for women there are powerful instincts and maternal feelings at play.
  • Although I am fairly open-minded, my maternal feelings tend to rear their ugly head at this issue.
  • She just couldn't seem to invoke any maternal feelings inside of herself.
motherly, protective, caring, nurturing, loving, devoted, affectionate, fond, warm, tender, gentle, kind, kindly, comforting



Pronunciation: /-ˌizəm/
Example sentences
  • But the safety of their refuge-along with its chance for selfdiscoveries about solitude and community, maternalism and sexuality, childish insouciance and adult responsibility-cannot last forever.
  • Enlivened by her sunny maternalism and inviting bosom, and concerned for her fatherless offspring, he discovers that he can make them smile and be boys again by joining them in their fantasy world.
  • It was no small feat to replace faith in common sense maternalism with confidence in genderblind specialization, especially in relation to work that touched such allegedly ordinary, familiar, and private aspects of life.


Pronunciation: /-ist/
Example sentences
  • Middle class and elite women with maternalist goals were more concerned about the moral than the physical safety of young women and believed that domestic service provided a safe space for young women (They also needed servants).
  • While the politics of maternalist welfare, and the policies adopted, varied from one country to another, the overall trend was toward extensive state aid and propaganda designed to promote motherhood.
  • Other women (such as women printers) opposed any sort of maternalist legislation that may have dictated the terms of their employment.


Pronunciation: /məˌtərn(ə)lˈistik/
Example sentences
  • Even at the most immediate level, her actions stand for a distorted maternalistic urge to treat ‘approaching wayfarers’ as children, to exercise control by mystification and to deal out ruthless punishment.
  • He lives in a maternalistic and patronising establishment, which offers the inmates a certain type of kindness but no independence or choice in their everyday lives.


Pronunciation: /məˈtərn(ə)lē/
Example sentences
  • Perhaps lighting fires is not aberrant behavior; humans may react almost maternally to the absence of fire in a landscape that craves it.
  • In them was an exotic assortment of metal tools, maternally wrapped.
  • She seems completely benign as she chats maternally with the teenager about his studies.


Late 15th century: from French maternel, from Latin maternus, from mater 'mother'.

  • mother from Old English:

    English mother, Dutch moeder, and German Mutter share their ancient ancestor with Latin mater (source of madrigal (late 16th century), maternal (Late Middle English), matriarch (late 16th century), matrimony (Late Middle English), matrix (Late Middle English), and matter (Middle English) the last two containing the idea of something from which something is made or born). The root probably came from the use of the sound ma made by babies, identified by mothers as a reference to themselves. The British expression some mothers do 'ave 'em, commenting on a person's clumsy or foolish behaviour, was apparently originally a Lancashire saying. The comic Jimmy Clitheroe popularized it, as ‘don't some mothers 'ave 'em, in his BBC radio programme The Clitheroe Kid, which ran from 1958 to 1972. The phrase gained further currency as the title of a 1970s BBC television comedy series Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, in which Michael Crawford starred as the clumsy, accident-prone Frank Spencer. The former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is remembered as having promised the mother of all battles on the eve of the first Gulf War. On 7 January 1991 The Times reported that he had no intention of relinquishing Kuwait and was ready for the ‘mother of all wars’. The proverb necessity is the mother of invention is first recorded in 1658, in Northern Memoirs by R. Franck: ‘Art imitates Nature, and Necessity is the Mother of Invention.’ The idea can be traced back further to classical times, to the Roman satirist Persius, who stated that ‘The belly is the teacher of art and giver of wit’.

Words that rhyme with maternal

colonel, diurnal, eternal, external, fraternal, infernal, internal, journal, kernel, nocturnal, paternal, supernal, vernal

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ma·ter·nal

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