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Paternal vs. Maternal: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 7, 2023
Paternal pertains to fathers or fatherhood, while maternal relates to mothers or motherhood.

Key Differences

Paternal and maternal are terms derived from Latin, which describe relationships or qualities associated with fathers and mothers, respectively. The term "paternal" originates from the Latin word "pater" which means "father." It encompasses everything that is related to or characteristic of a father. Conversely, "maternal" stems from the Latin word "mater," meaning "mother," signifying everything tied to or characteristic of a mother.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
In family trees or genealogy, when tracing lineage or ancestry, "paternal" is used to describe the father's side of the family, while "maternal" pertains to the mother's side. If one were to discuss their paternal grandparents, they would be referring to the grandparents on their father's side. Conversely, maternal grandparents would mean the grandparents on their mother's side.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
From a behavioral or psychological standpoint, when referring to instincts or feelings, the term "paternal" denotes those associated with fathers. For instance, a paternal instinct might reflect a father's inherent drive to protect and provide for his offspring. On the other hand, "maternal" instincts or feelings are those inherently linked to mothers, often highlighting a mother's nurturing and caring nature towards her children.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
In medicine and genetics, "paternal" and "maternal" are used to describe genes or traits inherited from a person's father or mother, respectively. Paternal genes are those derived from the father, while maternal genes come from the mother. This distinction is crucial in understanding inherited characteristics and potential genetic disorders.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Comparison Chart

Origin

Derived from Latin "pater" for "father."
Derived from Latin "mater" for "mother."
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
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Lineage

Relates to the father's side of the family.
Relates to the mother's side of the family.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Instincts/Feelings

Associated with fatherly instincts/feelings.
Associated with motherly instincts/feelings.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Inheritance (Genetics)

Genes or traits inherited from the father.
Genes or traits inherited from the mother.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Role in Parenting

Reflects the role or qualities of a father.
Reflects the role or qualities of a mother.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Paternal and Maternal Definitions

Paternal

Of or relating to a father.
His paternal instincts kicked in.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023
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Maternal

Motherly; characteristic of a mother.
She gave a maternal smile.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

Paternal

Of the line of descent traced through the father.
His paternal lineage is French.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 07, 2023

Maternal

Of or relating to a mother.
Her maternal instincts are strong.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Paternal

Fatherly; befitting a father.
He had a paternal manner.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Maternal

Of the line of descent traced through the mother.
Her maternal ancestry is German.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Paternal

Inherited from the father's side.
The trait is on his paternal side.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Maternal

Nurturing and protective like a mother.
She had a maternal touch.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Paternal

Protective and caring like a father.
He offered a paternal arm around her.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Maternal

Inherited from the mother's side.
The gene is from her maternal line.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

Paternal

Relating to or characteristic of a father or fatherhood; fatherly.
Sumera Saeed
Jun 17, 2019

Maternal

Relating to or characteristic of a mother or motherhood; motherly
Maternal instinct.
Sumera Saeed
Jun 17, 2019

Paternal

Received or inherited from a father
A paternal trait.
Sumera Saeed
Jun 17, 2019

Maternal

Inherited from one's mother
A maternal trait.
Sumera Saeed
Jun 17, 2019

Paternal

Related through one's father
My paternal aunt.
Sumera Saeed
Jun 17, 2019

Maternal

Related through one's mother
My maternal uncle.
Sumera Saeed
Jun 17, 2019

FAQs

Which term refers to the father's side of the family?

"Paternal" refers to the father's side.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

Which term is used for traits inherited from the mother?

"Maternal" is used for traits from the mother.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Is the term "maternal" exclusive to humans?

No, it can be used to describe motherly attributes in animals as well.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Are "paternal" and "maternal" opposites?

Not opposites, but they refer to different parental roles: fatherly vs. motherly.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

What's the origin of "paternal"?

It comes from the Latin word "pater," meaning "father."
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Is there a maternal chromosome?

There isn't a "maternal chromosome," but mothers contribute an X chromosome.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Are "paternal" and "maternal" adjectives?

Yes, both are adjectives describing fatherly and motherly aspects, respectively.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Can "paternal" describe motherly qualities?

No, "paternal" describes fatherly qualities, while "maternal" describes motherly ones.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 07, 2023

Can "paternal" be used in contexts beyond family?

Yes, it can describe anything characteristic of or suitable to a father.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Which term would describe a grandmother on the father's side?

She would be a "paternal grandmother."
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Do "paternal" and "maternal" only refer to biological parents?

No, they can refer to qualities or relationships, not just biological connections.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Can an emotion be described as "maternal"?

Yes, especially if it's a feeling commonly associated with mothers.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Are there other words related to "paternal" in English?

Yes, like "paternity" which relates to fatherhood.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Is "paternal" used in legal contexts?

Yes, especially in situations like "paternal rights."
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Is "paternal" always about genetics?

No, it can describe characteristics, roles, or relationships tied to fathers.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

And the origin of "maternal"?

It's derived from the Latin "mater," meaning "mother."
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

How about related words for "maternal"?

"Maternity" is one, relating to motherhood.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Can "maternal" describe a protective instinct?

Absolutely, it often describes a mother's protective nature.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

In genetics, which chromosome is paternal?

The Y chromosome is paternal, coming from the father.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Can they be used in cultural contexts?

Yes, to describe cultural traits or roles linked to fathers or mothers.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.

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