1. a male parent.
  2. a father-in-law, stepfather, or adoptive father.
  3. any male ancestor, especially the founder of a family or line; progenitor.
  4. a man who exercises paternal care over other persons; paternal protector or provider: a father to the poor.
  5. a person who has originated or established something: the father of modern psychology; the founding fathers.
  6. a precursor, prototype, or early form: The horseless carriage was the father of the modern automobile.
  7. one of the leading men in a city, town, etc.: a scandal involving several of the city fathers.
  8. Chiefly British. the oldest member of a society, profession, etc.Compare dean1(def 3).
  9. a priest.
  10. (initial capital letter) Theology. the Supreme Being and Creator; God.
  11. a title of respect for an elderly man.
  12. the Father, Theology. the first person of the Trinity.
  13. Also called church father. Church History. any of the chief early Christian writers, whose works are the main sources for the history, doctrines, and observances of the church in the early ages.
  14. Ecclesiastical.
    1. (often initial capital letter)a title of reverence, as for church dignitaries, officers of monasteries, monks, confessors, and especially priests.
    2. a person bearing this title.
  15. fathers, Roman History. conscript fathers.

verb (used with object)

  1. to beget.
  2. to be the creator, founder, or author of; originate.
  3. to act as a father toward.
  4. to acknowledge oneself the father of.
  5. to assume as one’s own; take the responsibility of.
  6. to charge with the begetting of.

verb (used without object)

  1. to perform the tasks or duties of a male parent; act paternally: Somehow he was able to write a book while actively fathering.


  1. God, esp when considered as the first person of the Christian Trinity
  2. Also called: Church Father any of the writers on Christian doctrine of the pre-Scholastic period
  3. a title used for Christian priests


  1. a male parent
  2. a person who founds a line or family; forefather
  3. any male acting in a paternal capacityRelated adjective: paternal
  4. (often capital) a respectful term of address for an old man
  5. a male who originates somethingthe father of modern psychology
  6. a leader of an association, council, etc; eldera city father
  7. British the eldest or most senior member in a society, profession, etcfather of the bar
  8. (often plural) a senator or patrician in ancient Rome
  9. the father of informal a very large, severe, etc, example of a specified kindthe father of a whipping

verb (tr)

  1. to procreate or generate (offspring); beget
  2. to create, found, originate, etc
  3. to act as a father to
  4. to acknowledge oneself as father or originator of
  5. (foll by on or upon) to impose or place without a just reason

Old English fæder “father, male ancestor,” from Proto-Germanic *fader (cf. Old Saxon fadar, Old Frisian feder, Dutch vader, Old Norse faðir, Old High German fater, German vater), from PIE *pəter (cf. Sanskrit pitar-, Greek pater, Latin pater, Old Persian pita, Old Irish athir “father”), presumably from baby-speak sound like pa.

The classic example of Grimm’s Law, where PIE “p-” becomes Germanic “f-.” Spelling with -th- (15c.) reflects widespread phonetic shift in Middle English that turned -der to -ther in many words; spelling caught up to pronunciation in 1500s (cf. burden, murder).


c.1400, from father (n.). Related: Fathered; fathering.

see like father, like son.

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