mother figure

[ muhth-er fig-yer ]


  1. an emotional substitute for one's mother, especially one who fulfills parental functions such as protection, authority, support, etc.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of mother figure1

First recorded in 1930–35

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Example Sentences

She was this powerful mother figure for a lot of people in Gloucester.

He has also been carrying on a—let’s say, unique—psychosexual relationship with Gerri, who plays the role of his mother figure, mentor and forbidden love.

From Time

Watch this clip, then send a bouquet of flowers to the nonpsychotic mother figure in your life.

Most important, he was a mother figure—he cared for them, reassured them, agonized on them, nagged them, even wept for them.

What the courts care about is who the mother figure really is, the de facto mom.


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More About Mother Figure

What is a mother figure?

A mother figure is a person who embodies the qualities that are often seen as ideal in a female parent, eliciting similar responses from people that would normally be seen when interacting with their mother. A mother figure can be any person who displays the qualities of a mother even if they themselves are not a mother. 

Mother figures are usually identified by both heteronormative gender roles and traditional Western gender roles, but this is not always the case. While a mother figure is normally a woman, they can be anyone who represents an ideal portrayal of the female parent. 

Typical Western representations of mother-child relationships show that the child will grow attached and somewhat reliant emotionally and physically on the mother because the mother has nurtured the child from birth. When someone is seen as a mother figure, it may be because someone has come to rely on them as one would their own mother.

Example: Sasha was Liam’s mother figure when no one else would be.

Where does mother figure come from?

The first records of the term mother figure come from around the 1930s. It combines the term mother, meaning “a female parent,” with the term figure, meaning “a character or personage,” to mean “someone who embodies the character of a female parent.” 

Mother figure is closely related with the term father figure, a person who represents the Western ideals of the father-child relationship. 

Today, mother figure, or mother image, is no longer used exclusively to define those who identify as a woman or whose sex is female. A mother figure can be a person of any gender who follows the traditional motherly model of nurturing, counseling, and close care of a child. Anyone who is a source of comfort or care in a person’s life, especially when they lack a caring mother or a biological mother, may be termed a mother figure.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for mother figure?

  • mother image

What are some words that share a root or word element with mother figure

What are some words that often get used in discussing mother figure?

How is mother figure used in real life?

Mother figure is used in reference to someone who children have in their lives rather than their actual mother or someone who reminds a person of a mother. 

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Try using mother figure!

Is mother figure used correctly in the following example?

“Although I didn’t have a mother growing up, I was lucky to have many mother figures to guide me.”