AskDefine | Define maternal

Dictionary Definition

maternal adj
1 characteristic of a mother; "warm maternal affection for her guest"- Dorothy Sayers [ant: paternal]
2 relating to or derived from one's mother; "maternal genes"
3 relating to or characteristic of or befitting a parent; "parental guidance" [syn: parental, paternal] [ant: filial]
4 related on the mother's side; "my maternal grandmother" [syn: enate, enatic, maternal(p)]

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl frm maternel or post-classical etyl la maternalis, from Classical Latin maternus, from mater.



  1. Pertaining to a mother; having the characteristics of a mother, motherly.
    His weakness seemed to bring out her maternal instincts.
  2. Related through the mother, or her side of the family.
    Toby is my maternal uncle.
  3. anatomy medicine Derived from the mother as opposed to the foetus during pregnancy.



Extensive Definition

"Mom", "Mum", and "Mommy" redirect here. For other uses, see Mom (disambiguation), Mum (disambiguation) and Mommy (disambiguation).
A mother is a biological and/or social female parent of an offspring. In the case of a mammal such as a human, the biological mother gestates a fertilized ovum, which is called first an embryo, and then a fetus. This gestation occurs in the mother's uterus from conception until the fetus is sufficiently developed to be born. The mother then goes into labor and gives birth. Once the child is born, the mother produces milk in a process called lactation to feed the child; often the mother's breast milk is the child's sole nourishment for the first year or more of the child's life.
The title mother is often given to a woman other than the biological parent, if it is she who fulfills the social role. This is most commonly either an adoptive mother or a stepmother (the biologically unrelated wife of a child's father). Currently, with advances in reproductive technologies, the function of biological motherhood can be split between the genetic mother (who provides the ovum) and the gestational mother (who carries the pregnancy), and in theory neither might be the social mother (the one who brings up the child).
Mothers have historically fulfilled the primary role in the raising of children, but since the late 20th century, the role of the father in child care has been given greater prominence in most Western countries.
The experience of motherhood varies greatly depending upon location. The organization Save the Children has ranked the countries of the world, and found that Scandinavian countries are the best places to be a mother, whereas countries in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst. A mother in the bottom 10 countries is over 750 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a mother in the top 10 countries, and a mother in the bottom 10 countries is 28 times more likely to see her child die before reaching his or her first birthday.

Synonyms and translations

Familiar or colloquial terms for mother in English are:
  • mom or mommy, in most of North America (especially the U.S.). It is used widely in the West Midlands, in the UK.
  • mum or mummy, is used in the UK, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Ma, Mam or Mammy is used in Ireland and sometimes in the UK.
  • "mama" is used in many countries, but is considered a Spanish form of "mother"
  • In many other languages, similar pronunciations apply; mama in Polish and Slovak, māma in Mandarin Chinese, máma in Czech, maman in French, mamma in Italian, or mãe in Portuguese. Mama, borrowed from the English, is in common use in Japan. In Hebrew the word is eema (אמא), and in many south Asian cultures and the Middle East the mother is known as amma or oma or ammi or "ummi", or variations thereof. Many times these terms denote affection or a maternal role in a child's life.

Legendary & mythological mothers


maternal in Afrikaans: Moeder
maternal in Arabic: أم
maternal in Aragonese: Mai
maternal in Aymara: Tayka
maternal in Bengali: মা
maternal in Bosnian: Majka
maternal in Breton: Mamm
maternal in Bulgarian: Майка
maternal in Catalan: Mare
maternal in Czech: Matka
maternal in German: Mutter
maternal in Estonian: Ema
maternal in Spanish: Madre
maternal in Esperanto: Patrino
maternal in French: Mère
maternal in Korean: 어머니
maternal in Italian: Madre
maternal in Kannada: ತಾಯಿ
maternal in Kinyarwanda: Mama
maternal in Latin: Mater
maternal in Lithuanian: Mama
maternal in Ligurian: Moæ
maternal in Malagasy: Reny
maternal in Malayalam: അമ്മ
maternal in Marathi: आई
maternal in Dutch: Moeder
maternal in Dutch Low Saxon: Moor (meens)
maternal in Newari: आमा
maternal in Japanese: 母親
maternal in Norwegian: Mor
maternal in Norwegian Nynorsk: Mor
maternal in Portuguese: Mãe
maternal in Romanian: Mamă
maternal in Simple English: Mother
maternal in Slovak: Matka (biológia)
maternal in Serbian: Мајка
maternal in Finnish: Äiti
maternal in Swedish: Mor
maternal in Tamil: தாய்
maternal in Telugu: తల్లి
maternal in Thai: แม่
maternal in Cherokee: ᎤᏂᏥ
maternal in Turkish: Anne
maternal in Ukrainian: Мати
maternal in Yiddish: מוטער
maternal in Contenese: 阿媽
maternal in Chinese: 母親

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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