father (n.)

Old English fæder "he who begets a child, nearest male ancestor;" also "any lineal male ancestor; the Supreme Being," and by late Old English, "one who exercises parental care over another," from Proto-Germanic *fader (source also of Old Saxon fadar, Old Frisian feder, Dutch vader, Old Norse faðir, Old High German fatar, German vater; in Gothic usually expressed by atta), from PIE *pəter- "father" (source also of Sanskrit pitar-, Greek pater, Latin pater, Old Persian pita, Old Irish athir "father"), presumably from baby-speak sound "pa." The ending formerly was regarded as an agent-noun affix.

My heart leaps up when I behold
  A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
  Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
[Wordsworth, 1802]

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, perhaps reinforced in this case by Old Norse forms; spelling caught up to pronunciation in 1500s (compare mother (n.), weather (n.), hither, gather). As a title of various Church dignitaries from c. 1300; meaning "creator, inventor, author" is from mid-14c.; that of "anything that gives rise to something else" is from late 14c. As a respectful title for an older man, recorded from 1550s. Father-figure is from 1954. Fathers "leading men, elders" is from 1580s.

Origin and meaning of father

father (v.)

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

Origin and meaning of father

updated on October 13, 2021

Definitions of father from WordNet
father (n.)
a male parent (also used as a term of address to your father);
his father was born in Atlanta
Synonyms: male parent / begetter
father (n.)
the founder of a family;
Synonyms: forefather / sire
father (n.)
a person who holds an important or distinguished position in some organization;
the tennis fathers ruled in her favor
the city fathers endorsed the proposal
father (n.)
a person who founds or establishes some institution;
George Washington is the father of his country
Synonyms: founder / beginner / founding father
father (n.)
the head of an organized crime family;
Synonyms: don
father (v.)
make (offspring) by reproduction;
John fathered four daughters
Synonyms: beget / get / engender / mother / sire / generate / bring forth
Father (n.)
`Father' is a term of address for priests in some churches (especially the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Catholic Church); `Padre' is frequently used in the military;
Synonyms: Padre
Father (n.)
(Christianity) any of about 70 theologians in the period from the 2nd to the 7th century whose writing established and confirmed official church doctrine; in the Roman Catholic Church some were later declared saints and became Doctor of the Church; the best known Latin Church Fathers are Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and Jerome; those who wrote in Greek include Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and John Chrysostom;
Synonyms: Church Father / Father of the Church
Father (n.)
God when considered as the first person in the Trinity;
Synonyms: Father-God / Fatherhood
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.