The Joy of Language Learning

How ‘Father’ Fathered New Words.

When we hear the term father, we are obviously reminded of the person who sweats and toils throughout the day so that his family can sleep comfortably at night. A person whose footsteps would make a tender and eager heart race in anticipation of a surprise gift. Or, if your childhood was anything like mine, you would have thrown away whatever you had been doing till then, pick up a book and start acting as if you had been studying for centuries and are an idol of obedience. In any case, it is difficult to ignore how important a role our fathers have played in our lives. It is similarly difficult to ignore how the word ‘father’ has influenced the English language itself.

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The word ‘father’ has its root in the Proto-Indo-European term peter which takes inspiration from similar words in other languages like Greek and Latin pater, the old Farsi term pita and the Sanskrit term pitar.

One of the words gifted to us through its modification is patriarch – a denomination given to the head of a family or tribe which has now extended to include founders of institutes and societies as well. It further evolved to patriarchy which means a system of governance in which power is wielded by men and women are scarcely given positions of power.

It is interesting to note that the similar Latin word patria took on a different meaning when compared to the Greek version. It began to represent one’s fatherland or native country. Thus, its derivations imbibed that sense as in patriot (someone who vigorously supports one’s country) and patriotism (devotion and vigorous support to one’s own country). When it is joined by the prefix com- (common), we have compatriot – a fellow citizen or national of a country. When it is prefixed with ex- (out), we get expatriate (someone living outside of their native country) and similarly prefixed with re- (again), the word produced is repatriate (to relocate someone to their native country).

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Words that mean to signify something in relation to one’s father also have the same roots. A common word in this regard is patrimony – inheritance, especially from one’s father or ancestor. The custom wherein a couple lives with the husband’s family is called patrilocal. In a similar vein, the act of killing one’s father is called patricide, which has always been considered one of the most heinous crimes to commit.

Thus it should come as no surprise that a role that is so important in everyone’s lives is referenced by a term that is equally important for the English language and that has led to a diverse range of words being incorporated in the dictionaries. So, don’t overlook their importance, care for the man who has done so much for you and of course, keep reading!

There’s a second part of this article as well if you would like to know a few more words related to to ‘Father’. Click here to be redirected to the second part.

Table Summary:

PatriarchThe head of a family or tribe
Patriarch-yA male dominated system of governance
PatriotSomeone who supports or defends their country
Patriot-ismVigorously support one’s own country
Com-PatriotSomeone belonging to the same nation as someone else
Ex-PatriateSomeone who lives in a foreign country
PatrilocalThe custom wherein a couple stays with the husband’s family
PatrimonyInheritance, generally from one’s father or ancestors
PatricideThe act of killing one’s father

Welcome to your Father's Quiz

"Patriarchy" in the given headline means:


What does "Patriarch" mean?

"Compatriot" in the given headline means:


Bhagat Singh was a true [patriot]. The bracketed word means:

What does "Expatriates" mean in the given headline?


"…there were always children, and the [patrimony] was divided every time." – D.H. Lawrence. The bracketed word means:

The custom wherein a couple lives with the husband's family is know as:

The act of killing of one's own father is called:

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