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.
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.
suffix forming adjectives from nouns and meaning "having qualities of, of the form or nature of" (manly, lordly), "appropriate to, fitting, suited to" (bodily, earthly, daily); irregularly descended from Old English -lic, from Proto-Germanic *-liko- (Old Frisian -lik, Dutch -lijk, Old High German -lih, German -lich, Old Norse -ligr), related to *likom- "appearance, form" (Old English lich "corpse, body;" see lich, which is a cognate; see also like (adj.), with which it is identical).
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Definitions of fatherly
like or befitting a father or fatherhood; kind and protective;