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Coined after patriarchy, from Latin māter (mother) and Greek ἄρχω (I rule).


matriarchy (plural matriarchies)

  1. A social system in which the mother is head of household, having authority over men and children.
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, London: Rider/Hutchinson & Co., page 149:
      The difficulty is that when a man thinks of matriarchy, he thinks of a patriarchy with women in the place of men; he does not stop to consider that matriarchy may be a complete mirror-image. Where patriarchy establishes law, matriarchy establishes custom; where patriarchy establishes military power, matriarchy establishes religious authority; where patriarchy encourages the aresteia of the individual warrior, matriarchy encourages the tradition-bound cohesion of the collective. When, therefore, one envisions a matriarchy, one should not conjure up visions of a gang of Amazons lopping off breasts and testicles to rule by force of arms.
  2. A system of government by females (particularly as a kind of polity).
  3. The dominance of women in social or cultural systems.



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