pa·tri·arch / ˈpātrēˌärk/ • n. 1. the male head of a family or tribe. ∎ a man who is the oldest or most venerable of a group: Hollywood's reigning patriarch rose to speak. ∎ a man who behaves in a commanding manner: Cunningham's authoritative energy marks him out as patriarch within his own company. ∎ a person or thing that is regarded as the founder of something: the patriarch of all spin doctors. 2. any of those biblical figures regarded as fathers of the human race, esp. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their forefathers, or the sons of Jacob. 3. the title of a most senior Orthodox or Catholic bishop, in particular: ∎ a bishop of one of the most ancient Christian sees (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and formerly Rome). ∎ the head of an autocephalous or independent Orthodox church. ∎ a Roman Catholic bishop ranking above primates and metropolitans and immediately below the pope, often the head of a Uniate community.
1. Title from the 6th cent. for the presiding bishops of the five main sees of Christendom (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem), corresponding to provinces of the Roman Empire, who had authority over the metropolitans in their territories. In addition to these, the heads of some autocephalous Orthodox churches, the heads of Uniat Churches, and the heads of the Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Churches also have the title of patriarch.
2. The term is also used as an English equivalent of soshigata, the founder of a Buddhist, especially Zen, school, together with his lineage successors.
a leader in an eastern christian church.
By the fourth century c.e., the Christian church was divided into five administrative districts: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople (now Istanbul), and Rome. Each of these was headed by a bishop called a patriarch. Today, "patriarch" is the title for the head of an Eastern Christian church, such as the Armenian patriarch or the Greek Orthodox patriarch (who still resides in Istanbul).
Deanesly, Margaret. A History of the Medieval Church, 590–1500, 9th edition. London: Methuen, 1969.
Shaw, Stanford J., and Shaw, Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol. 2: Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808–1975. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
Patriarch is also used for the title of a most senior Orthodox or Catholic bishop, in particular, a bishop of one of the most ancient Christian sees (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and formerly Rome), and the head of an autocephalous or independent Orthodox Church.
Recorded from Middle English, the word comes via Old French and ecclesiastical Latin from Greek patriarkhēs, from patria ‘family’ + arkhēs ‘ruling’.
So patriarchal XVI. — late L. patriarchate XVII. — medL. patriarchy †patriarchate XVI; patriarchal government XVII. — medL.