Definition of patriarch in English:


Line breaks: patri|arch
Pronunciation: /ˈpeɪtrɪɑːk


  • 1The male head of a family or tribe.
    More example sentences
    • The family patriarch makes all decisions regarding living arrangements, children's marriages, and money.
    • Is he not supposed to be a patriarch to his extended family?
    • The consequences - offending the family patriarch and causing the family financial hardship - are considered too large for the sake of a girl.
  • 1.1An older man who is powerful within an organization: Hollywood’s reigning patriarch rose to speak
  • 1.2The male founder of something: he’s the patriarch of all spin doctors
    More example sentences
    • The death of three national patriarchs within such a short time has always been a suggestive theme.
    • He is the patriarch of a small, informally organized group engaged in psycho-historical studies.
  • 2Any of those biblical figures regarded as fathers of the human race, especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their forefathers, or the sons of Jacob.
    More example sentences
    • Both Jews and Muslims consider the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph as spiritual ancestors.
    • Our Sages attribute the origin of our three daily prayer services to our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
    • The biblical patriarch Jacob mourned over his son Joseph for 22 years, mistakenly believing that he had been killed by a wild animal.
    senior figure, father, paterfamilias, leader, elder, grandfather; guiding light, guru
  • 3A bishop of one of the most ancient Christian sees (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and formerly Rome).
    More example sentences
    • Christians there worshipped in Greek and were subject to the patriarch of Alexandria.
    • The former, a patriarch of Alexandria, could be hardly suspected of partiality to the enemies of Christianity.
    • The most powerful church leaders were the bishop of Rome, called the pope, in the West and the patriarch of Constantinople in the East.
  • 3.1The head of an autocephalous or independent Orthodox Church: Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
    More example sentences
    • The tsar was autocrat by divine right, sustained by the endorsement of the autonomous Orthodox church under its patriarch.
    • It was named after Evtimii Turnovski, a renowned religious and literary figure who lived during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and was a patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church from 1375 to 1393.
    • The alternative synod representatives said they would ask for the summoning of a church-people's council to elect a legitimate patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
  • 3.2A Roman Catholic bishop ranking above primates and metropolitans and immediately below the Pope, often the head of a Uniate community: Patriarch of Venice
    More example sentences
    • In 1953 he was made a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice.
    • When monasteries die out, the patriarch sells the property cheaply to pay his bills.
    • If Roncalli had died as patriarch of Venice, he certainly would not be widely remembered today.


Middle English: from Old French patriarche, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek patriarkhēs, from patria 'family' + arkhēs 'ruling'.

More definitions of patriarch

Definition of patriarch in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day coloratura
Pronunciation: ˌkɒlərəˈtjʊərə
elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody