noun, plural chil·dren.


    with child, pregnant: She's with child.

Origin of child

before 950; Middle English; Old English cild; akin to Gothic kilthai womb
Related formschild·less, adjectivechild·less·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for childless

Contemporary Examples of childless

Historical Examples of childless

  • The deed of the Charity did not absolutely specify “childless widows.”

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • I am a childless man, yet here I am as the parent of all of them.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • As it was true, they got a child, though they had been childless.

    Aino Folk-Tales

    Basil Hall Chamberlain

  • In a certain village there lived a very rich couple; but they were childless.

    Aino Folk-Tales

    Basil Hall Chamberlain

  • This she added, remembering that the woman before her was childless.

British Dictionary definitions for childless


noun plural children

  1. a boy or girl between birth and puberty
  2. (as modifier)child labour
a baby or infant
an unborn babyRelated prefix: paedo-
with child another term for pregnant
a human offspring; a son or daughterRelated adjective: filial
a childish or immature person
a member of a family or tribe; descendanta child of Israel
a person or thing regarded as the product of an influence or environmenta child of nature
Midland English and Western English dialect a female infant
Derived Formschildless, adjectivechildlessness, nounchildly, adjective

Word Origin for child

Old English cild; related to Gothic kilthei womb, Sanskrit jathara belly, jartu womb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for childless

c.1200, from child (n.) + -less. Related: Childlessness.



Old English cild "fetus, infant, unborn or newly born person," from Proto-Germanic *kiltham (cf. Gothic kilþei "womb," inkilþo "pregnant;" Danish kuld "children of the same marriage;" Old Swedish kulder "litter;" Old English cildhama "womb," lit. "child-home"); no certain cognates outside Germanic. "App[arently] originally always used in relation to the mother as the 'fruit of the womb'" [Buck]. Also in late Old English, "a youth of gentle birth" (archaic, usually written childe). In 16c.-17c. especially "girl child."

The wider sense "young person before the onset of puberty" developed in late Old English. Phrase with child "pregnant" (late 12c.) retains the original sense. The sense extension from "infant" to "child" also is found in French enfant, Latin infans. Meaning "one's own child; offspring of parents" is from late 12c. (the Old English word was bearn; see bairn). Figurative use from late 14c. Most Indo-European languages use the same word for "a child" and "one's child," though there are exceptions (e.g. Latin liberi/pueri).

The difficulty with the plural began in Old English, where the nominative plural was at first cild, identical with the singular, then c.975 a plural form cildru (genitive cildra) arose, probably for clarity's sake, only to be re-pluraled late 12c. as children, which is thus a double plural. Middle English plural cildre survives in Lancashire dialect childer and in Childermas.

Child abuse is attested by 1963; child-molester from 1950. Child care is from 1915. Child's play, figurative of something easy, is in Chaucer (late 14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for childless




A person who has not yet reached puberty.
A son or daughter; an offspring.
A person not of legal age; a minor.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with childless


In addition to the idiom beginning with child

, also see

  • second childhood


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.