• synonyms


[pair-uh nt, par-]
  1. a father or a mother.
  2. an ancestor, precursor, or progenitor.
  3. a source, origin, or cause.
  4. a protector or guardian.
  5. Biology. any organism that produces or generates another.
  6. Physics. the first nuclide in a radioactive series.
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  1. being the original source: a parent organization.
  2. Biology. pertaining to an organism, cell, or complex molecular structure that generates or produces another: parent cell; parent DNA.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to be or act as parent of: to parent children with both love and discipline.
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Origin of parent

1375–1425; late Middle English (< Middle French) < Latin parent- (stem of parēns), noun use of present participle of parere to bring forth, breed
Related formspar·ent·less, adjectivepar·ent·like, adjectivenon·par·ent, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for parentless

Contemporary Examples of parentless

Historical Examples of parentless

  • He remembered the days of his own childhood, his parentless childhood.

    The Happy Unfortunate

    Robert Silverberg

  • The effort now is to bring the childless and the parentless together.

    The Bible and Life

    Edwin Holt Hughes

  • He had his paternal rights even here—Els and Eva were not parentless orphans.

  • That was the only kinship they could claim—this slim, pale scion of a worn-out line, and the nameless, parentless girl beside her.

    The Firing Line

    Robert W. Chambers

  • Certainly Marion had few interests in the town that had been the scene of the domestic tragedy that had left her parentless.

    The Ranchman

    Charles Alden Seltzer

British Dictionary definitions for parentless


  1. having no living parents; orphaned
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  1. a father or mother
  2. a person acting as a father or mother; guardian
  3. rare an ancestor
  4. a source or cause
    1. an organism or organization that has produced one or more organisms or organizations similar to itself
    2. (as modifier)a parent organism
  5. physics chem
    1. a precursor, such as a nucleus or compound, of a derived entity
    2. (as modifier)a parent nucleus; a parent ion
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Derived Formsparenthood, noun

Word Origin for parent

C15: via Old French from Latin parens parent, from parere to bring forth
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 parentless



1660s, from parent (n.). Related: Parented; parenting.

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early 15c. (late 12c. as a surname), from Old French parent "father, parent, relative, kin" (11c.), from Latin parentem (nominative parens) "father or mother, ancestor," noun use of present participle of parere "bring forth, give birth to, produce," from PIE root *pere- "to bring forth" (see pare). Began to replace native elder after c.1500.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

parentless in Medicine


  1. One who begets, gives birth to, or nurtures and raises a child; a father or mother.
  2. An ancestor; a progenitor.
  3. An organism that produces or generates offspring.
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  1. To act as a parent to; to rear and nurture.
  2. To cause to come into existence; to serve as a source for; originate.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.