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Patriarchy is a social system in which the father or eldest male is head of the household, having authority over women and children. Patriarchy also refers to a system of government by males, and to the dominance of men in social or cultural systems. It may also include title being traced through the male line.

The term patriarch means the father or chief of a clan. It is also used in Christianity as an official title, and derives from the Greek patriárchēs (πατριάρχης) via the Latin patriarcha.

Names of Christian dignitaries were in early days taken sometimes from civil life (episkopos, diakonos), sometimes borrowed from the Jews (presbyteros). The name patriarch is one of the latter class. Bishops of special dignity were called patriarchs just as deacons were called levites, because their place corresponded by analogy to those in the Old Law. All such titles became official titles, only gradually. At first they were used loosely as names of honour without any strict connotation; but in all such cases the reality existed before any special name was used.”

A patriarch is one of the scriptural fathers of the Hebrew people, a man who is father or founder, or a man who is head of a patriarchy. The official title of Patriarch refers to any of the ancient or Eastern Orthodox Sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, or of the ancient and Western Sees of Rome with authority over other bishops. It also refers to the head of any of various eastern churches or a Roman Catholic bishop. Finally, it could refer to a Mormon of the Melchizedek priesthood.

A patriarchate is the jurisdiction of a patriarch.

Within feminist theory, patriarchy refers to the structure of modern cultural and political systems, which are ruled by men. Such systems are said to be detrimental to the rights of women. However, it has been noted that patriarchal systems of government do not benefit all men of all classes.

While the term patriarchy generally refers to institutions, the term is sometimes used less effectively in describing societal attitudes. It has been argued, "institutions are very persistent and may last, with little change, into a period in which attitudes have altered considerably since the institutions were devised." Gordon Rattray Taylor used the words "patrist" and "matrist" to describe attitudes (as opposed to institutions), and noted that the outlook of the dominant social group seems to swing between the two extremes. However, the patrist assertion that the patriarchal system of authority was the original and universal system of social organization, invariably leads to the establishment of corresponding institutions.[1]