1. Relating to or characteristic of a mother or motherhood; motherly: maternal instinct.
2. Inherited from one's mother: a maternal trait.
3. Related through one's mother: my maternal uncle.
[Middle English, from Old French maternel, from Medieval Latin māternālis, from Latin māternus, from māter, mother; see māter- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.