from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children.
  • n. Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place.
  • n. All the members of a household under one roof.
  • n. A group of persons sharing common ancestry. See Usage Note at collective noun.
  • n. Lineage, especially distinguished lineage.
  • n. A locally independent organized crime unit, as of the Cosa Nostra.
  • n. A group of like things; a class.
  • n. A group of individuals derived from a common stock: the family of human beings.
  • n. Biology A taxonomic category of related organisms ranking below an order and above a genus. A family usually consists of several genera. See Table at taxonomy.
  • n. Linguistics A group of languages descended from the same parent language, such as the Indo-European language family.
  • n. Mathematics A set of functions or surfaces that can be generated by varying the parameters of a general equation.
  • n. Chemistry A group of elements with similar chemical properties.
  • n. Chemistry A vertical column in the periodic table of elements.
  • adj. Of or having to do with a family: family problems.
  • adj. Being suitable for a family: family movies.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A father, mother and their sons and daughters; also called nuclear family.
  • n. A group of people related by blood, marriage, law, or custom.
  • n. A kin, tribe; also called extended family.
  • n. A rank in the classification of organisms, below order and above genus; a taxon at that rank.
  • n. A group of people who live together, or one that is similar to one that is related by blood, marriage, law, or custom, or members of one's intimate social group.
  • n. Any group or aggregation of things classed together as kindred or related from possessing in common characteristics which distinguish them from other things of the same order.
  • n. A group of instrument having the same basic method of tone production.
  • n. A group of languages believed to have descended from the same ancestral language.
  • n. Used attributively.
  • adj. Suitable for children and adults.
  • adj. Conservative, traditional.
  • adj. Homosexual.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The collective body of persons who live in one house, and under one head or manager; a household, including parents, children, and servants, and, as the case may be, lodgers or boarders.
  • n. The group comprising a husband and wife and their dependent children, constituting a fundamental unit in the organization of society.
  • n. Those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe, clan, or race; kindred; house
  • n. Course of descent; genealogy; line of ancestors; lineage.
  • n. Honorable descent; noble or respectable stock.
  • n. A group of kindred or closely related individuals
  • n. A group of organisms, either animal or vegetable, related by certain points of resemblance in structure or development, more comprehensive than a genus, because it is usually based on fewer or less pronounced points of likeness. In zoölogy a family is less comprehesive than an order; in botany it is often considered the same thing as an order.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The collective body of persons who form one household under one head and one domestic government, including parents, children, and servants, and as sometimes used even lodgers or boarders.
  • n. Parents with their children, whether they dwell together or not; in a more general sense, any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins: often used in a restricted sense only of a group of parents and children founded upon the principle of monogamy.
  • n. In a narrow use, the children of the same parents, considered collectively apart from the parents: as, they (a husband and wife) have a large family to care for; a family of children.
  • n. In the most general sense, those who descend from a common progenitor; a tribe or race; kindred; lineage.
  • n. Hence Any group or aggregation of things classed together as kindred or related from possessing in common characteristics which distinguish them from other things of the same order.
  • n. Specifically In scientific classifications, a group of individuals more comprehensive than a genus and less so than an order, based on fewer or less definite points of physical resemblance than the former, and on more or more definite ones than the latter.
  • n. Course of descent; genealogy.
  • n. Descent: especially, noble or respectable stock: as, a man of good family.
  • n. A cluster of microscopic plants formed by the adherence of a number of individuals; a colony.
  • Pertaining to or connected with the family.
  • n. In petrography the term is used by Rosenbusch to embrace igneous rocks which are alike in composition and texture: as, the family of syenitic rocks; the family of essexite; the family of phonolitic rocks. In the quantitative system of classification (1902) it is suggested that the term be applied to a group of igneous rocks which are developed from the same parent magma by processes of differentiation — that is, any group of consanguineous rocks.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. primary social group; parents and children
  • n. a loose affiliation of gangsters in charge of organized criminal activities
  • n. an association of people who share common beliefs or activities
  • n. a person having kinship with another or others
  • n. a social unit living together
  • n. people descended from a common ancestor
  • n. a collection of things sharing a common attribute
  • n. (biology) a taxonomic group containing one or more genera


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English familie, from Latin familia, household, servants of a household, from famulus, servant.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin familia, from famula ("female servant").


  • We think she's better off as an addition to a family, despised by the first wife and her family***.

    Archive 2009-10-01

  • Dad was so flustered (you know how telegrams excite him: they offend all his antiquarian instincts!) -- well, the Bishop said -- _Am sending my favourite curate to call on you magnificent young fellow excellent family very worthy chap will be in Wolverhampton a day or two anxious to have him meet your family_.


  • For this is the form that every tabulation of family pedigree must assume; and therefore the mere fact that a scientific tabulation of natural affinities was eventually found to take the form of a tree, is in itself highly suggestive of the inference that such a tabulation represents a _family_ tree.

    Darwin, and After Darwin (Vol. 1 and 3, of 3) An Exposition of the Darwinian Theory and a Discussion of Post-Darwinian Questions

  • Having some faith in it, she arose immediately and made her wishes known to the family physician, that is, to the _family_, who kindly administered the remedy without delay.

    The Communistic Societies of the United States From Personal Visit and Observation

  • Several years ago he related to the editor the history of the Rackrent family, and it was with some difficulty that he was persuaded to have it committed to writing; however, his feelings for "_the honour of the family_," as he expressed himself, prevailed over his habitual laziness, and he at length completed the narrative which is now aid before the public.

    Tales and Novels — Volume 04

  • It also ordered that all the existing pensioners (including family pensioners) would also be eligible for the revised scale of pay and the consequent pension benefits as per GO No. Meanwhile, the Director of Collegiate Education has instructed all the Joint Directors of Collegiate Education to instruct the principals and secretaries of all aided colleges under their jurisdiction to accept the application for revision of pension \family pension with effect from January 1, 2006.

    The Hindu - Front Page

  • But if a humble domestic, one who imagines herself so obscure as to be of little service to a world which perhaps estimates her services almost as low as she does herself -- if such an individual may, besides the general influence of her character upon a family, be an indispensable aid in the work of sending forth to the world a host of female missionaries, equal, in the progress of less than two centuries, at the dawn of the millennium, to ninety millions, what may not be done by a sister in _a well ordered family_ -- one who is not only well educated and governed herself, but who educates and governs others well?

    The Young Woman's Guide

  • His family motto ... _our _family motto ... is 'Who dies, if Hartest live!'"

    Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

  • The family, wrote William Gouge in 1618, was "a school wherein the first principles and grounds of government and subjection are learned… inferiours that cannot be subject in a family… will hardly be brought to yield such subjection as they ought in Church or Commonwealth." [

    The Family Way

  • Can the term "family values" in the America of the 21st century be recaptured to express natural love and joy between parent and child and not just a personnel political perspective?

    Rodney L. Taylor, Ph.D.: 'Family Values' -- Confucian Style


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  • too familiar?

    April 28, 2011

  • Nowadays we would think of the primary meaning of this as "close kin, or parents and children", and would regard other uses as extensions. In fact this is an innovation of Modern English: the first use known to the OED is from Milton:

    As Father of his Familie he clad

    Thir nakedness with Skins of Beasts

    (Paradise Lost, book 10, ll.216-7)

    The Latin word familia came* from famulus "servant" and meant "household", i.e. the servants collectively, or the estate, the house, everyone in the house. This was also the earliest meaning in English. Then came what now look like extended senses:

    1425 Lineage, those descended from a common ancestor.

    1545 Everyone in a household, kin as well as servants.

    1583 Race, stock, people perceived as descended from a common ancestor.

    1611 Brotherhood, nation, people bound by common ties.

    1626 Groups or kinds of objects sharing common properties.

    * In famul-us the /u/ arises in proximity to the L pinguis (dark or velarized L); in famil-ia the following /i/ makes the L exilis (clear) and thus protects the preceding /i/.

    Gosh. Another discovery.

    June 17, 2009

  • The definition of family leaves out some of the larger social-physical dimensions that once was part of the word. It once referred not just to people related by sharing the same space, but more broadly the same place, as a village, or a large house with its complements of servants (which might be as many as several hundred). The more recent emphasis on blood relation or small family or group dilutesd the communal place association that tends to extend more toward clan or even tribe in addition to those 'employed' in the management of the opoeration (servants, slaves or not).

    See p. 133 sewction 2.82 Carl Darling Buck's A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages, University of Chicago Press. The identity of the word broadens as it extends into adjacent languages. Or is it the other way round?

    May 28, 2009