Word: materfamilias

Pronunciation: may-tər-fə-MI-lee-əs / mah-tər-fə-MI-lee-əs

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the female head of a family or household

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Happy belated Mother’s Day to those of you who celebrated this weekend! Here’s an interesting new word for mothers who run a household. I learned today’s vocabulary word after looking up synonyms for “mother”, and since I’d never seen or heard it before, I knew I had to write about it for my Word of the Week segment. If you celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, chances are you either are or know a “materfamilias”!

A “materfamilias” is the female head of a household or family. The word comes from the Latin phrase mater familias, meaning “mother of the household”. This phrase comprises the noun mater “mother” and the noun familia “family”.

Fun fact: the plural form of this word is “matresfamilias”. Though I find it highly interesting for its Latin origin, I doubt I’d be able to find a place for the word “materfamilias” in any of my writing outside of poetry. Given how advanced and archaic it sounds, writers of historical nonfiction would likely find the most use for it, but it may also prove useful to fiction writers who tend to overuse the word “matriarch” in their stories. If you write main characters who are mothers and/or female heads of their households, “materfamilias” may be a good word to add to your vocabulary!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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