Webster 1913 Edition



, fr.
servant; akin to Oscan
servant, cf.
he dwells, Skr.
house, fr.
to set, make, do: cf. F.
. Cf.
The collective body of persons who live in one house, and under one head or manager; a household, including parents, children, and servants, and, as the case may be, lodgers or boarders.
The group comprising a husband and wife and their dependent children, constituting a fundamental unit in the organization of society.
The welfare of the
underlies the welfare of society.
H. Spencer.
Those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe, clan, or race; kindred; house;
as, the human
; the
of Abraham; the father of a
Go ! and pretend your
is young.
Course of descent; genealogy; line of ancestors; lineage.
Honorable descent; noble or respectable stock;
as, a man of
A group of kindred or closely related individuals;
as, a
of languages; a
of States; the chlorine
A group of organisms, either animal or vegetable, related by certain points of resemblance in structure or development, more comprehensive than a genus, because it is usually based on fewer or less pronounced points of likeness. In Zoology a family is less comprehesive than an order; in botany it is often considered the same thing as an order.
Family circle
See under
Family man
A man who has a family; esp., one who has a wife and children living with him and dependent upon him.
A man of domestic habits.
“The Jews are generally, when married, most exemplary family men.”
Family of curves
Family of surfaces
a group of curves or surfaces derived from a single equation.
In a family way
like one belonging to the family.
“Why don’t we ask him and his ladies to come over in a family way, and dine with some other plain country gentlefolks?”
In the family way
[Colloq. euphemism]

Webster 1828 Edition



[L. familia.]
The collective body of persons who live in one house and under one head or manager; a household, including parents, children and servants, and as the case may be, lodgers or boarders.
Those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe or race; kindred; lineage. Thus the Israelites were a branch of the family of Abraham; and the descendants of Reuben, of Manasseh, &c., were called their families. The whole human race are the family of Adam, the human family.
Course of descent; genealogy; line of ancestors.
Go and complain thy family is young.
Honorable descent; noble or respectable stock. He is a man of family.
A collection or union of nations or states.
The states of Europe were, by the prevailing maxims of its policy, closely united in one family.
In popular language, an order, class or genus of animals or of other natural productions, having something in common, by which they are distinguished from others; as, quadrupeds constitute a family of animals, and we speak of the family or families of plants.

Definition 2024



See Wiktionary:Families for a guide to language families within Wiktionary



family (countable and uncountable, plural families)

  1. (countable) A group of people who are closely related to one another (by blood, marriage or adoption); kin; for example, a set of parents and their children; an immediate family.
    Our family lives in town.
    • 1893, Walter Besant, The Ivory Gate, Prologue:
      Such a scandal as the prosecution of a brother for forgery—with a verdict of guilty—is a most truly horrible, deplorable, fatal thing. It takes the respectability out of a family perhaps at a critical moment, when the family is just assuming the robes of respectability: [] it is a black spot which all the soaps ever advertised could never wash off.
    • 2013 June 1, “Towards the end of poverty”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8838, page 11:
      America’s poverty line is $63 a day for a family of four. In the richer parts of the emerging world $4 a day is the poverty barrier. But poverty’s scourge is fiercest below $1.25 ([]): people below that level live lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short.
  2. (countable) An extended family; a group of people who are related to one another by blood or marriage.
    • 1915, William T. Groves, A History and Genealogy of the Groves Family in America
  3. (countable) A (close-knit) group of people related by blood, friendship, marriage, law, or custom, especially if they live or work together.
    crime family, Mafia family
    This is my fraternity family at the university.
    Our company is one big happy family.
  4. (countable, taxonomy) A rank in the classification of organisms, below order and above genus; a taxon at that rank.
    Magnolias belong to the family Magnoliaceae.
    • 1992, Rudolf M. Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, page 4
      The closest affinities of the Jubulaceae are with the Lejeuneaceae. The two families share in common: a elaters usually 1-spiral, trumpet-shaped and fixed to the capsule valves, distally [].
  5. (countable) Any group or aggregation of things classed together as kindred or related from possessing in common characteristics which distinguish them from other things of the same order.
    Doliracetam is a drug from the racetam family.
    • 2010, Gary Shelly, Jennifer Campbell, Ollie Rivers, Microsoft Expression Web 3: Complete (page 262)
      When creating a font family, first decide whether to use all serif or all sans-serif fonts, then choose two or three fonts of that type []
  6. (countable, music) A group of instruments having the same basic method of tone production.
    the brass family; the violin family
  7. (countable, linguistics) A group of languages believed to have descended from the same ancestral language.
    the Indo-European language family; the Afro-Asiatic language family
  8. Used attributively.
    The dog was kept as a family pet.
    For Apocynaceae, this type of flower is a family characteristic.
    • 2013 June 14, Jonathan Freedland, Obama's once hip brand is now tainted”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 1, page 18:
      Now we are liberal with our innermost secrets, spraying them into the public ether with a generosity our forebears could not have imagined. Where we once sent love letters in a sealed envelope, or stuck photographs of our children in a family album, now such private material is despatched to servers and clouds operated by people we don't know and will never meet.

Usage notes

  • In some dialects, family is used as a plurale tantum.


See also: Wikisaurus:class


  • (computing): C family



family (not comparable)

  1. Suitable for children and adults.
    It's not good for a date, it's a family restaurant.
    Some animated movies are not just for kids, they are family movies.
  2. Conservative, traditional.
    The cultural struggle is for the survival of family values against all manner of atheistic amorality.
  3. (slang) Homosexual.
    I knew he was family when I first met him.


Derived terms

Related terms

See also

  • Category:Family


Most common English words before 1923: seems · soul · French · #400: family · earth · live · hard