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*[[Tok Pisin]]: [[mama]]<!--is this "mother" or "mamma"?-->

To the anonymous commenter I'm fairly sure that it means "mother" and I'm surprised that you would make such a facile assumption (i.e. that it meant "mamma"). However, I'm not an authority on Tok Pisin so I haven't moved it. —Moilleadóir 10:32, 23 August 2005 (UTC)

Not an etymology?[edit]

(Currently 1.4 in the contents) Does this have any meaning at all? Doesn't look much like Arabic.


Arabic אֵם, mother (one's female parent)

Moilleadóir 10:32, 23 August 2005 (UTC)

Farsi or Persian[edit]

is iranian Language farsi or persan?????????????????/

In English, it is most properly called Persian, but in Persian, it is called Farsi or Parsi. —Stephen 07:09, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

use of "mother" in a nun's elevated title[edit]

under form of respect entry, i guess, such an example might be helpful.

Is the term used for any nun, or only for an abbess? —AugPi 22:02, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't know i suppose head of a convent (where strictly "abbess" or not i don't know). i came to wiktionary to understand when some nuns are titled "mother" as opposed to "sister" (didn't find much help on either). thanks for responding.-- 07:18, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
The head of a convent is called "Mother Superior". Correct. The other nuns are all called "sisters", as far as I know. That's somewhat different from the usage in male convents, where the priests are called "father" and the non-ordained members are called "brothers".


proposed by Bogorm

The Flickr caption for the photo on here presently says

My sister Kelly holding her niece Carmen...

Emphasis mine. Is this, then, really an appropriate picture to illustrate the word "mother"? Randee15 16:34, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

Yes, it is not appropriate, since the description says so. Why not replace it with Maria Theresia who is one of the most illustrious mothers and matrons? The uſer hight Bogorm converſation 19:20, 8 November 2009 (UTC)
I feel that a simple mother-and-baby picture may be better, because that painting seems to suggest royalty/monarchy more than motherhood. Equinox 19:54, 8 November 2009 (UTC)
The existing picture is adequate; the Marie-Therese introduces even more extraneous elements. A picture that would be more unambiguously about the central/etymological concept (see below) of "mother" might show some animal giving birth or suckling young. I doubt that a picture is particularly helpful for this entry anyway. DCDuring TALK 17:04, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
Also added a mother cat image. SemperBlotto 17:22, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

universalising mother[edit]

Would there be any problem universalising (species-wise) sense 1 by changing
"A female that conceives, gives birth to, or raises a child" to "A female that conceives, gives birth to, or raises young"? (Then we can delete def 5: "A female parent of an animal." and move the quotation ("The lioness was a mother of four cubs.") to sense 1.)
Also, the use of "mother" to mean "pregnant woman" is different enough from the meaning "a female who has given birth to, or raised young" to require a separate def.--Tyranny Sue 05:07, 14 November 2009 (UTC)

We need to make sure that we have the everyday definition in plain language, whatever else we do. There are a proliferation of specific terms for female mammals (some transferable to humans !) that suggests centrality and priority for the human sense, or at the very least its distinctiveness. Many of the synonyms for the human sense are not applicable to the mammal, egg-laying, or sexually reproducing animal senses.
Does one become a "mother" in the pregnant sense at the moment of fertilization (so one could discover that one had become a mother at some later time) or is it more socially defined, as when one is "showing"? DCDuring TALK 17:20, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
It is a bit of a dilemma. I mean, calling a woman a 'mother' just because she has conceived (though people do it) is fairly premature - she might not (for a range of reasons) carry the fetus to term, and then she would no longer be referred to as a 'mother'. Whereas someone who's given birth (to live young) is more permanently considered a mother (even if her offspring dies later).
With the species issue, if our first def is about humans exclusively, shouldn't it be something more like "A female human who conceives, gives birth to..."? (Not 'woman' because fairly young girls can conceive.)--Tyranny Sue 05:48, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Our definitions have to capture usage. There are contexts where a mother-to-be is called a mother because there is no alternative that is brief (<four syllables), readily understood, and emotionally rich. But well-crafted definitions seem to use defining words and wording that approximate the ambiguities of usage.
Longmans' DCD (1987) includes both humans and animals in the wording of sense 1. MW3 says "woman", but has a chimp among its usage examples. We have the potential to do better, but it isn't easy. DCDuring TALK 12:55, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
Ok, how would something like "A female who has given birth to a baby or acted as parent to a child. Sometimes extended to include pregnancy." be for sense 1? This would cover the rather redundant sense 2, whose quotations could then be included under sense 1.--Tyranny Sue 01:36, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

This is now more about making the definitions more accurate than it is about universalising it (species-wise) but how about:

  1. A female who has given birth to a baby or acted as parent to a child. Sometimes used in reference to a pregnant female (possibly as a shortened form of mother-to-be).
    My sister-in-law has just become a mother.
    I am visiting my mother today.
    • 1988, Robert Ferro, Second Son
      He had something of his mother in him, but this was because he realized that in the end only her love was unconditional, and in gratitude he had emulated her.
    Nutrients and oxygen obtained by the mother are conveyed to the fetus.
    • 1991, Susan Faludi, The Undeclared War Against American Women
      The antiabortion iconography in the last decade featured the fetus but never the mother.
    a mother cat and kittens
  2. A female parent of an animal.
    The lioness was a mother of four cubs.

(followed by all the figurative meanings) --Tyranny Sue 02:25, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

That seems quite good. Do folks really use the term mother (or father) about fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects? Isn't it mostly confined to mammals and birds? DCDuring TALK 03:49, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Hmm, I would, not that I ever have occasion to. Don't know about most people. In fiction (i.e. movies like 'Finding Nemo', 'Ants', etc) "mother" & "father" are probably used. But I don't think most people have much reason - unless they have such creatures as pets (in which case I'd assume they do) or study them professionally (in which case why not?). Not much of an answer, sorry.
Another thought, perhaps tweak sense 1 to "A (human) female..."?--Tyranny Sue 04:00, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Oh, we could put something like "(usually mammals and birds)" at the end of sense 2 if you think it's necessary.--Tyranny Sue 04:03, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Also, here's Ruakh's comment from the Tea Room:
I think it's worth giving "human mother" its own sense, because I imagine that its application to other animals is by extension. Even if that's not the case historically, I feel like it's the case in current usage. (Actually, I think the primary sense is our current sense #2, where "mother" is relative to the son(s) and/or daughter(s), as in "my mother", "their mother", etc. Consider a phrase like "a face that only a mother could love", where "mother" is implied to be the face's owner's mother, even though there's no explicit possessive.) —RuakhTALK 14:33, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
In which case perhaps the new defs 1 & 2 should be:
  1. A (human) female who has (a) acted as parent to a child or (b) given birth to a baby. Sometimes used in reference to a pregnant female (possibly as a shortened form of mother-to-be)(c).
(a) I am visiting my mother today.
    • 1988, Robert Ferro, Second Son
      He had something of his mother in him, but this was because he realized that in the end only her love was unconditional, and in gratitude he had emulated her.
(b) My sister-in-law has just become a mother.
(c) Nutrients and oxygen obtained by the mother are conveyed to the fetus.
    • 1991, Susan Faludi, The Undeclared War Against American Women
      The antiabortion iconography in the last decade featured the fetus but never the mother.
  1. a mother cat and kittens
  2. A female parent of an animal.
    The lioness was a mother of four cubs.

(followed by all the figurative meanings)

(Also, I'll add the link to 'animal', which has sense 3 as "In non-scientific usage, any land-living vertebrate (i.e. not birds, fishes, insects etc)" ) --Tyranny Sue 04:16, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

So... how would we accomodate this quote: "One can hardly call these changes radical, however, when compared with those caused by the genetic constitution of the mother plant." ? There is a "mother" sense in botany as well as in zoology, but the mother often is not female. --EncycloPetey 02:50, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Yes indeed. Also the 'mother' some people use to refer to the starter in brewing and bread-making. I think we need another sense/def for that.--Tyranny Sue 01:45, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
I wonder if we could combine some of the figurative anthropomorphic senses and come up with some more modern quotations (as per my new section below, I think 6's quotation is not very helpful, and 7 is pretty questionable too). But we may need to add a few more to cover the "mother plant" & other non-animal biological meanings (e.g. something like "something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source" and, separate sense I suppose, "A structure, such as a mother cell, from which other similar bodies are formed").
The fermenting sense ("a stringy, mucilaginous substance consisting of various bacteria, esp. Mycoderma aceti, that forms on the surface of a fermenting liquid and causes fermentation when added to other liquids, as in changing wine or cider to vinegar. Also called mother of vinegar") is also missing but *may* have a separate etymology (Origin: 1530–40; prob. special use of mother 1 , but perh. another word, akin to D modder dregs, MLG moder swampy land; see mud) so could possibly be listable separately? --Tyranny Sue 02:14, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

Quotations for senses 6 & 7[edit]

Currently, they are:
6. (figuratively) Any elderly woman, especially within a particular community

  • Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother. –Mark 3:35, NIV.

7. (figuratively) Any person or entity which performs mothering.

  • The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. –Judges 5:7, KJV.
  • Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. –Galatians 4:26, KJV.

Does it strike anyone else that we could find more appropriate & illustrative quotations in less antiquated language? Especially the one for 6 doesn't seem to me to match the definition.--Tyranny Sue 02:08, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps we should start a Citations drive for this word (with notice in the BP), and then sort them to figure out what senses we want. I know several contributors here who might be up for helping on this. How does that sound? --EncycloPetey 02:20, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
Sounds good.--Tyranny Sue 13:28, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

Etymology 4[edit]

subsequently moved to etymology 5

Though etymology 4 is probably a neologism, it is not a protologism — I heard the word spoken over the years in reference to housecats, and it sounded perfectly natural in context. When I recently searched for the word, I couldn't find an existing entry for it at or in Wiktionary, so I decided to add it here. I'm going under the assumption that the word's usage is not exactly standard or formal, but is likely improvised dialectal, but otherwise I know little about it. - Gilgamesh (talk) 15:10, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

Here's are some attested online usages I found just now, completely independent of my personal frame of reference. At least now I know for certain it's not a protologism. - Gilgamesh (talk) 15:14, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

The first link is now dead and the other two use moth-er with a hyphen. Does it exist unhyphenated, or CFI-attestably at all? I briefly searched Google Books for "good mother" in proximity to "mouser" or "cat" and "moths" but found only the usual sense, e.g. a cat acting as a mother to baby squirrels. Equinox 13:11, 27 January 2016 (UTC)
It's not in Century, which sometimes has citations of obscure things. Century does, however, have something we lack:
mother2 [pronounced the same as 'female parent'], "n. (Altered, by confusion with mother1, from *mudder, < MD. modder, mud, dregs, lees, D. moer = MLG. moder, moer, dregs, lees, LG. moder (< G. moder, also mutter) = Dan. Sw. mudder, mud, mold; akin to mud, q.v.)
1. Dregs; lees.
Near a Nymph with an Urn, that divides the High-way, And into a Puddle throws Mother of Tea. Prior, Down-Hall, st. 15. [-sche's note: but this is a questionable interpretation of that sentence!]
2. A stringy, mucilaginous substance which forms in vinegar during the acetous fermentation, and the presence of which sets up and hastens this kind of fermentation. It is produced by a plant, Mycoderma aceti, the germs of which, like those of the yeast-plant, exist in the atmosphere.
Unhappily the bit of mother from Swift's vinegar-barrel has had strength enough to sour all the rest [of Carlyle's characteristics]. Lowell, Study Windows, p. 184.
mother2 [...], v. i. [...] To become concreted, as the thick matter of liquors; become mothery.
They oint their (sheep's) naked limbs with mothered oil. Dryden, [...]
It also says mother is sometimes a variant spelling of mauther. - -sche (discuss) 00:38, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
I've redefined and cited 'moth-er'. Googling "amateur mothers" "moths" turns up a handful of (non-durable) hits, which confirm that 'mother' exists and is as broad as I redefined 'moth-er' to be. However, I don't think it meets CFI. I tried the collocations you suggest, as well as "mother(s)"+"mouser(s)" and "amateur mother(s)", on Google Books, Groups, and Issuu. - -sche (discuss) 02:55, 28 January 2016 (UTC)
RFVing it therefore. Equinox 22:15, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

possibly as a shortened form of mother-to-be[edit]

This one is at least amusing. It's like saying that English "momma" must be borrowed from Latin "mamma". Why should the everyday usage be derived from a rather literary coinage?

Such a suggestion is especially strange in the proximity of (c) donates a fertilized egg [rather, an egg for fertilization -- these are two different things] , or (d) donates a body cell which has resulted in a clone. If a person can be validly called a mother without having ever been pregnant, why should calling a pregnant woman a mother be an exception that needs to be explained away by going to such great lengths? A pregnant woman is still "mothering" her child long after a "c)" or "d)" mother has parted ways with it. There's nothing outlandish about this usage. 22:11, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

Our definition 1 is pretty appalling compared with mainstream dictionaries. So technical. Equinox 17:32, 3 April 2016 (UTC)

RFV discussion: April–July 2016[edit]

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Alt form of moth-er (moth-catcher). Already discussed at Talk:mother, where CFI-compliant citations could not be found. Equinox 22:16, 2 April 2016 (UTC)

I've added two citations to the Citations section at the entry (admittedly one is a pun, but for a pun to work both meanings are activated) - so perhaps if another citation can be located, we're in business.- Sonofcawdrey (talk) 04:03, 4 April 2016 (UTC)
I have now added another citation - from 1949. Should satisfy CFI on this evidence, though only just. I did ask a "mother" I know, and he said the term is commonly used in the community and is currently trying to source a few citations from his library. - Sonofcawdrey (talk) 03:48, 11 June 2016 (UTC)