AskDefine | Define tutelary

Dictionary Definition

tutelary adj : providing protective supervision; watching over or safeguarding; "daycare that is educational and not just custodial"; "a guardian angel"; "tutelary gods" [syn: custodial, guardian, tutelar]

User Contributed Dictionary



From the Latin tutelarius "guardian" from tutela "protection"


  1. Having guardianship or protection of
    when a minor is involved, frequently tutelary powers acompany powers of attorney
  2. Of or pertaining to guardians
    those are, of course, tutelary benefits which follow the tutelary responsibilities
  3. Having the propensity or quality of a tutor


  • 1891 — Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Ch XXIX
    She loved him so passionately, and he was so godlike in her eyes; and being, though untrained, instinctively refined, her nature cried for his tutelary guidance.



  1. A guardian or protector
    Batman served as a tutelary of Gotham City


  • 1920 — F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, Book I
    At St. Regis' Amory stayed three days and took his exams with a scoffing confidence, then doubling back to New York to pay his tutelary visit.


Related terms

Extensive Definition

A tutelary spirit or patron deity serves as the guardian of, or an entity to watch over and protect, a particular site, person, culture, or nation. For example, in Greek polytheism, Athena was the patron goddess (or "matron goddess") of the city of Athens. Some of the deities are attributed with strong powers, others slight. Sometimes the deity is a minor aspect in a pantheon such as in Roman polytheism, where Janus was the patron god of doors, gates, time, and the like. Belief in tutelary deities or spirits often reflects a tradition of animism.
The Roman religion had dozens of tutelary spirits, such as Diana of Aricia, who watched over a sacred grove at Aricia, or the goddess Levana, who watched over young children. The Lares and Penates were local tutelary deities, as was the genius loci, a spirit said to be present in certain places. A person's own individual guardian spirit was a genius.
Shinto also is a religion whose many spirits, or kami, could be described as tutelary, similar to the Islamic djinns, or "genies". It is notable, however, that the Arabic word is of a completely different origin, although it has similarities with genius both phonetically and by meaning.
Catholicism and Orthodox Christianities each have many tutelaries, most of which are shared. For example, there is Saint Christopher who is said to have carried Jesus across a stream, although Christopher lived a full three centuries after the Resurrection had taken place; and there is Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners and haemorrhoid sufferers Occasionally, patron saints are called tutelary saints and so reflect their origin.
Tutelary spirits appear in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
In Vajrayana Buddhism tutelary deities are referred to as yidam.
In the Sanatana Dharma, tutelary deities are known as ishta-devata.
Chinese folk religion, both past and present, includes a myriad of tutelary deities. Exceptional individuals may become deified after death; a well-known example is the general Guan Yu from the Three Kingdoms period.
In Transpersonal psychology, tutelary deities often are referred to collectively as Archetypes.
In animistic and shamanic worldviews, tutelary deities, if zoomorphic, may take the form of power animals.
In modern Paganism many adherents worship patron gods or goddesses.

See also

tutelary in Swedish: rådare

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ancestral spirits, angel, attendant godling, control, covering, custodial, daemon, defensive, demon, fairy godmother, familiar, familiar spirit, fostering, genius, genius domus, genius loci, good angel, good genius, guardian, guardian angel, guardian spirit, guarding, guide, household gods, immunizing, invisible helper, lares and penates, lares compitales, lares familiaris, lares permarini, lares praestites, lares viales, manes, ministering angel, numen, parental, penates, preventive, prophylactic, protecting, protective, safeguarding, screening, sheltering, shielding, special providence, totem, tutelar god, vigilant, watchful
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