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

  • n. A man who rules a family, clan, or tribe.
  • n. Bible One of the antediluvian progenitors of the human race, from Adam to Noah.
  • n. Bible Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or any of Jacob's 12 sons, the eponymous progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • n. Used formerly as a title for the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria.
  • n. Roman Catholic Church A bishop who holds the highest episcopal rank after the pope.
  • n. Eastern Orthodox Church Any one of the bishops of the sees of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Moscow, and Jerusalem who has authority over other bishops.
  • n. Judaism The head of the Sanhedrin in Syrian Palestine from about 180 B.C. to A.D. 429.
  • n. Mormon Church A high dignitary of the priesthood empowered to invoke blessings.
  • n. One who is regarded as the founder or original head of an enterprise, organization, or tradition.
  • n. A very old, venerable man; an elder.
  • n. The oldest member of a group: the patriarch of the herd.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An old leader of a village or community.
  • n. The male head of a tribal line or family.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs his family or descendants by paternal right; -- usually applied to heads of families in ancient history, especially in Biblical and Jewish history to those who lived before the time of Moses.
  • n. A dignitary superior to the order of archbishops.
  • n. A venerable old man; an elder. Also used figuratively.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right; specifically, one of the progenitors of the Israelites—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob; also, one of those Biblical personages who were heads of families before the deluge: the latter are termed antediluvian patriarchs.
  • n. Hence In subsequent Jewish history, one of the heads of the Sanhedrim after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion, the patriarch of the Western Jews residing in Palestine, that of the Eastern in Babylon.
  • n. In the early church, and in the Orthodox Greek and other Oriental churches, a bishop of the highest rank; in the Roman Catholic Church, a bishop of the highest rank next after the Pope.
  • n. One of the highest dignitaries in the Mormon Church, who pronounces the blessing of the church. Also called evangelist.
  • n. A venerable old man; hence, figuratively, any object of patriarchal or venerable aspect.

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

  • n. the male head of family or tribe
  • n. a man who is older and higher in rank than yourself
  • n. any of the early biblical characters regarded as fathers of the human race
  • n. title for the heads of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (in Istanbul and Alexandria and Moscow and Jerusalem)


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

Middle English patriarche, from Old French, from Late Latin patriarcha, from Greek patriarkhēs : patriā, lineage (from patēr, patr-, father) + -arkhēs, -arch.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English patriarcha, from Late Latin patriarcha; later reinforced by Old French patriarche, from Byzantine Greek πατριάρχης ("the founder of the tribe/family"), from Ancient Greek πατριά ("generation, ancestry, descent, tribe, family") + -αρχης ("-arch").



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  • Israel’s patriarch Abraham went out, not knowing where God was leading (Heb. 11:8-10). Difficulties like famine (Gen. 12:10), fear (vv.11-20), and family disputes (13:8) gave reason for doubt, but Abraham persevered and because of his faith God counted him as righteous (Gal. 3:6).

    January 10, 2011