the nurturing of an infant or small child by its mother.
(in rural England) the custom of visiting one's parents on Laetare Sunday with a present.

Origin of mothering

First recorded in 1640–50; mother1 + -ing1




a female parent.
(often initial capital letter) one's female parent.
a mother-in-law, stepmother, or adoptive mother.
a term of address for a female parent or a woman having or regarded as having the status, function, or authority of a female parent.
a term of familiar address for an old or elderly woman.
a woman exercising control, influence, or authority like that of a mother: to be a mother to someone.
the qualities characteristic of a mother, as maternal affection: It is the mother in her showing itself.
something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.
(in disc recording) a mold from which stampers are made.


being a mother: a mother bird.
of, relating to, or characteristic of a mother: mother love.
derived from or as if from one's mother; native: his mother culture.
bearing a relation like that of a mother, as in being the origin, source, or protector: the mother company and its affiliates; the mother computer and its network of terminals.

verb (used with object)

to be the mother of; give origin or rise to.
to acknowledge oneself the author of; assume as one's own.
to care for or protect like a mother; act maternally toward.

verb (used without object)

to perform the tasks or duties of a female parent; act maternally: a woman with a need to mother.

Origin of mother

before 900; Middle English mother, moder, Old English mōdor; cognate with Dutch moeder, German Mutter, Old Norse mōthir, Latin māter, Greek mḗtēr, Sanskrit mātar-. As in father, th was substituted for d, possibly on the model of brother
Related formsmoth·er·less, adjectivemoth·er·less·ness, nounun·moth·ered, adjective

Synonyms for mother Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mothering

Contemporary Examples of mothering

Historical Examples of mothering

  • She says there's so much in her, and that she only wants 'mothering' to bring her out.

  • It is the way with maids, the nearer they are to mothering the less they wish to hear of it.

    The Arrow-Maker

    Mary Austin

  • Again he had to bear the mothering of her understanding eyes.

    Play the Game!

    Ruth Comfort Mitchell

  • And she certainly was a thoughtful and “mothering” sister to the little ones.

  • They seemed comfortable; gossipy they were, and fond of mothering the girls.

    The Job

    Sinclair Lewis

British Dictionary definitions for mothering




  1. a female who has given birth to offspring
  2. (as modifier)a mother bird
(often capital, esp as a term of address) a person's own mother
a female substituting in the function of a mother
(often capital) mainly archaic a term of address for an old woman
  1. motherly qualities, such as maternal affectionit appealed to the mother in her
  2. (as modifier)mother love
  3. (in combination)mothercraft
  1. a female or thing that creates, nurtures, protects, etc, something
  2. (as modifier)mother church; mother earth
a title given to certain members of female religious ordersmother superior
Christian Science God as the eternal Principle
(modifier) native or innatemother wit
offensive, taboo, slang, mainly US short for motherfucker offensive
be mother to pour the teaI'll be mother
the mother of all … informal the greatest example of its kindthe mother of all parties

verb (tr)

to give birth to or produce
to nurture, protect, etc as a mother
Related formsRelated adjective: maternal
Derived Formsmothering, noun

Word Origin for mother

Old English mōdor; compare Old Saxon mōdar, Old High German muotar, Latin māter, Greek mētēr




a stringy slime containing various bacteria that forms on the surface of liquids undergoing acetous fermentation. It can be added to wine, cider, etc to promote vinegar formationAlso called: mother of vinegar
Derived Formsmothery, adjective

Word Origin for mother

C16: perhaps from mother 1, but compare Spanish madre scum, Dutch modder dregs, Middle Low German modder decaying object, mudde sludge
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 mothering



Old English modor "female parent," from Proto-Germanic *mothær (cf. Old Saxon modar, Old Frisian moder, Old Norse moðir, Danish moder, Dutch moeder, Old High German muoter, German Mutter), from PIE *mater- "mother" (cf. Latin mater, Old Irish mathir, Lithuanian mote, Sanskrit matar-, Greek meter, Old Church Slavonic mati), "[b]ased ultimately on the baby-talk form *mā- (2); with the kinship term suffix *-ter-" [Watkins]. Spelling with -th- dates from early 16c., though that pronunciation is probably older.

Mother nature first attested c.1600; mother earth is from 1580s. Mother tongue "one's native language" first attested late 14c. Mother of all ________ 1991, is Gulf War slang, from Saddam Hussein's use in reference to the coming battle; it is an Arabic idiom (as well as an English one), cf. Ayesha, second wife of Muhammad, known as Mother of Believers. Mother Carey's chickens is late 18c. sailors' nickname for storm petrels, or for snowflakes. Mother lode attested by c.1882, from mining [1849].



1540s, "to be the mother of," from mother (n.1). Meaning "to take care of" is from 1863. Related: Mothered; mothering.



"a thick substance concreting in liquors; the lees or scum concreted" [Johnson], probably from Middle Dutch modder "filth, dregs," from PIE *meu- (see mud).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mothering in Medicine




A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child.
A female parent of an animal.
A structure, such as a mother cell, from which other similar bodies are formed.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with mothering


In addition to the idiom beginning with mother

  • mother of

also see:

  • necessity is the mother of invention
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.