late 12c., from Old French patriarche “one of the Old Testament fathers” (11c.) and directly from Late Latin patriarcha (Tertullian), from Greek patriarkhes “chief or head of a family,” from patria “family, clan,” from pater “father” (see father (n.)) + arkhein “to rule” (see archon). Also used as an honorific title of certain bishops in the early Church, notably those of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome.
[archon – one of the nine chief magistrates of ancient Athens, 1650s, from Greek arkhon “ruler, commander, chief, captain,” noun use of present participle of arkhein “be the first,” thence “to begin, begin from or with, make preparation for;” also “to rule, lead the way, govern, rule over, be leader of,” a word of uncertain origin. ]
1560s, in ecclesiastical sense, from Greek patriarkhia, from patriarkhes (see patriarch). Meaning “system of society or government by fathers or elder males of the community” first recorded 1630s.
1590s, “compatriot,” from Middle French patriote (15c.) and directly from Late Latin patriota “fellow-countryman” (6c.), from Greek patriotes “fellow countryman,” from patrios “of one’s fathers,” patris “fatherland,” from pater (genitive patros) “father” (see father (n.)); with -otes, suffix expressing state or condition. Liddell & Scott write that patriotes was “applied to barbarians who had only a common [patris], [politai] being used of Greeks who had a common [polis] (or free-state).”
Meaning “loyal and disinterested supporter of one’s country” is attested from c. 1600, but became an ironic term of ridicule or abuse from mid-18c. in England, so that Johnson, who at first defined it as “one whose ruling passion is the love of his country,” in his fourth edition added, “It is sometimes used for a factious disturber of the government.”
The name of patriot had become [c. 1744] a by-word of derision. Horace Walpole scarcely exaggerated when he said that … the most popular declaration which a candidate could make on the hustings was that he had never been and never would be a patriot. [Macaulay, “Horace Walpole,” 1833]
Somewhat revived in reference to resistance movements in overrun countries in World War II, it has usually had a positive sense in American English, where the phony and rascally variety has been consigned to the word patrioteer (1928). Oriana Fallaci [“The Rage and the Pride,” 2002] marvels that Americans, so fond of patriotic, patriot, and patriotism, lack the root noun and are content to express the idea of patria by cumbersome compounds such as homeland. (Joyce, Shaw, and H.G. Wells all used patria as an English word early 20c., but it failed to stick.) Patriots’ Day (April 19, anniversary of the 1775 skirmishes at Lexington and Concord Bridge) was observed as a legal holiday in Maine and Massachusetts from 1894.
“a lord-master, a protector,” c. 1300, from Old French patron “patron, protector, patron saint” (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin patronus “patron saint, bestower of a benefice, lord, master, model, pattern,” from Latin patronus “defender, protector, former master (of a freed slave); advocate,” from pater (genitive patris) “father” (see father (n.)). Meaning “one who advances the cause” (of an artist, institution, etc.), usually by the person’s wealth and power, is attested from late 14c.; “commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery” [Johnson]. Commercial sense of “regular customer” first recorded c. 1600. Patron saint (1717) originally was simply patron (late 14c.).