Word of the Week: Paterfamilias

Word: paterfamilias

Pronunciation: pay-tər-fə-MI-lee-əs / pah-tər-fə-MI-lee-əs

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the male head of a family or household

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Father’s Day is this Sunday, so it’s a good week to share an uncommon synonym for “father”! Following the vocabulary word I shared for Mother’s Day, today’s Word of the Week is its equally exotic-sounding male counterpart. While the former holiday is dedicated to female heads of families everywhere, this upcoming holiday is a chance to celebrate every “paterfamilias” in your life!

A “paterfamilias” is the male head of a household or family. The word comes from the Latin phrase pater familias, meaning “father of the household”. This phrase comprises the noun pater “father” and the noun familia “family”.

Historically, a “paterfamilias” was the patriarch of a Roman family, established as the oldest living male in the household. His duties included managing his estate, exercising authority over every other member of his extended family, and actively participating in Roman political and social life. Similar to “materfamilias”, the plural form of “paterfamilias” is “patresfamilias”. If you write characters who are fathers and/or male heads of their households (especially for historical fiction about Ancient Rome), “paterfamilias” is a good word to include in your vocabulary!

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

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