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10 synonyms for 'father'

10 synonyms for ‘father’

Father’s Day is that day of the year on which fathers are particularly honoured by their children, usually with greeting cards and gifts. It was first observed in the state of Washington in 1910. In the US, South Africa, and Britain, it is usually the third Sunday in June; in Australia, the first Sunday in September.

To mark this day, we have taken a look inside the Historical Thesaurus of the OED to dig out some synonyms for father.

Sire

You may have heard the word sire used before personal names to denote knighthood in medieval times, but the OED also lists it as a synonym for father. In this sense, it is now chiefly poetic.

Dad

A term of endearment commonly used for a male parent, the OED speculates that it derives from the reduplicated syllable da which is characteristic of early infantile vocalization, with the final vowel removed. Another theory suggests that dad has its roots in Welsh tad.

Bab

The obsolete bab may have a similar derivation as dad, perhaps coming from the reduplicated syllable ba. It is also possible that the term is a variant of dad, with the substitution of the voiced alveolar plosive d for the voiced bilabial plosive b. The name is associated with the language of a (very) young child.

Genitor

Genitor can be used as a general term for a parent, but it especially refers to a male one. It is of multiple origins: partly a borrowing from French genitur, and partly a borrowing from Latin genitor.

Pater

In the 19th century, pater, frequently used as a form of address, was associated especially with British public schools. The term is a borrowing from Latin, and literally means ‘father’. It is now used chiefly in humorous or ironic contexts.

Papa

The noun was introduced to English from French, and was originally a courtly and polite form of address used by both children and adults. Its later use was mainly restricted to children, before it gradually declined in British English in the late 19th century. Now chiefly Northern American.

Paw

Paw is a colloquial term mainly used in US regional dialects. It is a variant of pa, and formed in a similar way to its female equivalent maw.

Pops

Originating in US English, pops is also used as a form of address by one jazz musician to another. It is a derivation of pop, which, according to the OED, joined the English language in the 19th century, and the suffix –s.

Old man

In colloquial use, old man can mean ‘a woman’s husband’ or ‘a male partner’, as well as ‘a person’s father’. It is in this sense often used in combination with a possessive pronoun, as in ‘your old man’, ‘her old man’, or ‘my old man’.

Pot and pan

Pot and pan is rhyming slang for old man. It is used chiefly in British and Australian English.

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