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From Old English midwīf, corresponding to mid (with) + wīf (woman). It appears not to be entirely clear whether the original understanding was “with-woman” in the sense of “attending/assisting woman”, or “they who are with the woman” (namely the mother).



midwife (plural midwives)

  1. A person, usually a woman, who is trained to assist women in childbirth, but who is not a physician.
    A hundred years ago, a midwife would bring the baby into the world - going to a hospital to deliver a baby was either impossible or unheard of.
  2. (rare, figuratively) Someone who assists in bringing about some result or project.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The term is applicable to both males and females. Despite this, the term midhusband is also sometimes used (usually in humour).


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midwife (third-person singular simple present midwives or midwifes, present participle midwiving or midwifing, simple past and past participle midwived or midwifed)

  1. (transitive) To act as a midwife
  2. (transitive, figuratively) to facilitate the emergence of
    But the bigger objective was to help Iraqis midwife a democratic model that could inspire reform across the Arab-Muslim world and give the youth there a chance at a better future.
    Thomas L. Friedman. "Attention: Baby on Board." New York Times. April 13, 2010.

Usage notes[edit]

While elementary students are taught "replace 'f' with 'v'," the mistake resulting in "midwifed" is made often enough in informal/colloquial language to indicate the rule is not consistently followed.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

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