Explore The Many Meanings Of Family With These Quotes

For each person, the word family may represent something a little different. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and they consist of many different kinds of people who all love, support, and uplift each other. Being a part of a family isn’t always easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding parts of life. The following quotes from writers, artists, and world leaders explore many ways that people define the word family and remind us of the special place that family—the ones we’re born into, the ones we choose, and the ones we find throughout our lives—holds for each of us.


Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important.

—Barack Obama, speech at Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, 2008


In a speech about the importance of fathers, former president Barack Obama took the opportunity to highlight family as a foundation for the other parts of life. Build means “to construct (especially something complex) by assembling and joining parts or materials.” For many people, family is the first thing we’re a part of, and it becomes the first building block we use when we start constructing our own futures.


A home isn’t always the house we live in. It’s also the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

—TJ Klune, The House In The Cerulean Sea, 2020


In The House In The Cerulean Sea, author TJ Klune explores the concept of finding one’s chosen family in an unexpected place. To choose means “to select from a number of possibilities; pick by preference.” In this quote, home and family are presented as not just the places and people we’re born to, but as the ones we seek out intentionally and decide to keep near to use as we move about the world.


To the family—that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.

—Dodie Smith, Dear Octopus: A Comedy In Three Acts, 1938


Dorothy Gladys “Dodie” Smith was a novelist and playwright best known for the children’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Her comedy, Dear Octopus, explores the quirks of a family coming together for their parents’ golden wedding anniversary. Here, the word dear sits in humorous contrast to octopus. Something that’s dear is “beloved or loved,” while an octopus is, well … an octopus. With this word choice, Smith sets up a portrait of family as something that is equal parts cherished and chaotic. For better or worse, she says, we’re caught up in the complexities of family and wouldn’t have it any other way.


You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.

—Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society, 2007


In the novel-turned-television-show, The Mysterious Benedict Society, a group of orphans at a special school come together to foil a nefarious plot. The story asks us to consider: what is the difference between family and friends? A friend is “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.” When you put it that way, it’s clear that, if we’re lucky, friends and family can be one and the same. Good friends can become a part of our family, just as much as cherished family members can become our closest friends.


There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more  … secure.

—Jim Butcher, Vignette, 2008


As Butcher says, family is many things, including exasperating, joyful, maddening. Together, all of these things create the final word he mentions: secure. Secure means “dependable; firm; not liable to fail, yield, become displaced, etc.” In many ways, what makes a family feel so secure is the fact that the people in a family are allowed to have complex feelings, especially about the ones they love. In a happy family, it’s safe to feel love, joy, annoyance, and every other emotion. You can be who you are, feel what you feel, and still be unconditionally loved.


The informality of family life is a blessed condition that allows us all to become our best while looking our worst.

—Marge Kennedy, 100 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Family Together, 1994


With family, it’s okay to come as you are. This, says author Marge Kennedy, is one of the great strengths of family. Informality means “the absence of formality,” like traditional rules, procedures, and conventions. In a family unit, Kennedy’s quote explains, there aren’t many formal rules or requirements, and this lack of rigidity creates a safe space within the family for each member to become their best selves.


The sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times, so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us. That’s what makes a family.

—Zach Wahls, testimony before the Iowa House of Representatives, 2011


Zach Wahls said these words when testifying against a proposed same-sex marriage ban in his home state of Iowa in 2011. Wahl, who was raised by two moms, argued that family isn’t just the circumstance of a group of people living together; it’s the commitment those people make to one another that sets family apart. A commitment is a “pledge or promise; obligation.” No two families are the same, but Wahls’ family and so many others are strengthened by their commitment to love and support one another no matter what.


These are the people I consider family. They are the people who have been in my corner cheering me on. They support me and are genuinely happy when good things happen in my career. They are also the people who have been with me when things aren’t going well. They’re all so loving and I know that I could count on them to help me with whatever.

—Ruben Guadalupe Marquez, Wired magazine, 2019


When asked to define what family means, photographer and visual artist Ruben Guadalupe Marquez mentioned that the people he considers family are ones who genuinely support and care about him. Genuine means “possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin; not counterfeit; authentic; real.” It’s an important distinction that sets family apart. The people many consider family are the ones whose emotions, care, and support feel real and constant.


If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the eons, it’s that you can’t give up on your family, no matter how tempting they make it.

—Rick Riordan, The Sea of Monsters, 2006


Author Rick Riordan often writes of mythology and monsters, but that doesn’t make his observations about family any less real. In this quote, he highlights how our commitment to family endures, even in hard times. Tempt means “to entice or allure to do something often regarded as unwise, wrong, or immoral.” In a family, sometimes it may be tempting to keep your distance and avoid people’s bad habits or the annoyances at a holiday dinner. Riordan’s quote implies family isn’t held together by total happiness, but by the choices we make to overcome our grievances and show up for one another.


Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.

—Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key, 2008


In her novel Lock and Key, author Sarah Dessen stumbles on an essential truth about family: the meaning of it is always changing. To evolve means “to develop gradually.” At different times in life, family may mean different things. People may be added. People may leave. A family is an entire group of people growing and changing together, and just because the family unit takes a different shape doesn’t mean it ceases to be a family.


Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.

—Brad Henry, Oklahoma State of the State speech, 2005


In this quote, former Oklahoma governor Brad Henry illuminates the way that family both inspires people and comforts them. To guide means “to assist (a person) to travel through, or reach a destination in, an unfamiliar area.” As people grow up and move through their lives, family can serve as a support system that makes them more willing to take risks and pursue their dreams. Knowing that family is always there to catch us when we fall can give us courage and determination to keep going.

Show your appreciation for anyone you consider family with different ways to say thank you.

Previous An Historic vs. A Historic: Which One Is Correct? Next This List Of 100+ Adjectives By Type Is All You Need