What is a Motherland?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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A motherland is a place which someone views as his or her country of origin. It may be someone's native land, as in the place where that person was born, or it may be the home of that person's ancestors. Many people living in foreign cultures feel a strong attachment to the motherland, even people who have never actually set foot in their own motherlands.

The term “motherland” is also sometimes used to refer to the origin of a concept or object, as in “America is the motherland of apple pie.” People may also use the word “fatherland” interchangeably with “motherland,” although for some, “fatherland” has negative connotations, as it is sometimes associated with authoritarian regimes. Others contrast the association of “mother” with concepts like nurturing, and “father” with discipline and order, suggesting that a “motherland” literally gives birth to its people, while a fatherland shapes them.

You may also hear people referencing the “motherland” when talking about a nation which colonizes another. A colonizing nation is also known as a “metropole,” distinguishing it from its colonies and satellites. For example, some Australians regard England as the motherland, because Britain houses the seat of the Australian government, and many people view Britain as the source of Australian culture. In these instances, colonial citizens may be entitled to special treatment from the motherland, such as passports and the right of return.


Immigrants and minority ethnic groups may become especially involved with their motherlands, because they may feel isolated in the societies they have moved to. In the case of immigrants who transition from radically different cultures, clinging to the motherland can be a way to cope with culture shock, giving the immigrants something to hold on to as they settle into a new culture. Immigrant groups may get together for festivals, parties, and other celebrations of the motherland to ensure that they retain their cultural traditions and values.

People descended from immigrants may become interested in the motherland, viewing it as their place of cultural origin. Even when raised entirely in another culture, they may research their motherlands, and intend to visit at some point to learn more about their roots. Oddly enough, such individuals can sometimes become much more nationalistic than their ancestors, because they may be provided with an idealized view of the mother culture.


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