Gender-neutral language is the action of using words that do not give the idea of someone being a man or a woman or, in the context of this article, a son or a daughter. This article will explore in detail a selection of gender-neutral terms for son and daughter.
Which Gender-Neutral Terms Can Be Used For Son or Daughter?
When considering gender-neutral terms that can be used for son and daughter, there are several different options of words that can be used. Ten possible words to use in this context are:
- Young adult
The preferred version to use is ‘child’. This is an accepted gender-neutral term for a young person, which could be a son or a daughter. Whilst the implied age of the word ‘child’ is not an adult, the word “child” could refer to a son or daughter of adult age.
“Child” is the most widely used gender-neutral term for son and daughter. Furthermore, because it is a common word it is not difficult for parents and other people to use it. The word “child” can be used naturally in spoken conversation and in writing as a gender-neutral term.
Some argue that the word “child” implies sons and daughters under the age of the majority or people who have not reached adulthood. Others assert that the word “child” does not suggest any age, and state that it could be used as a gender-neutral term for a son or daughter of any age.
The definition of “child” according to Cambridge Dictionary is a boy or girl from the time of birth until he or she is an adult or a son or daughter of any age.
- The child refused to eat fruit and vegetables and preferred to eat chocolate, pizza and other types of junk food.
- Sue’s child was always late for school on Mondays and Fridays.
- The child preferred to play in the playground with a particular group of friends.
“Offspring” is another example of a gender-neutral term for a son or daughter. This term implies children and could refer to any age of son or daughter. This word is usually used in more formal contexts and conversations and is less likely to be used informally.
Due to the formality of the word “offspring”, this word is used less commonly. The word “offspring” is more frequently used to refer to animals than people, although it is often used in legal contexts.
The definition of “offspring” according to Cambridge Dictionary is the young of an animal or a person’s children.
- Julie’s friend visited the city accompanied by her offspring.
- She is the offspring of a policeman and a nurse.
- Toby is her only offspring.
Like “offspring”, “descendant” is a gender-neutral term for son or daughter which is used in more formal contexts as opposed to informal situations. A descendant can also refer to grandchildren and, in gender-neutral terms, a male or female grandchild.
Whilst “descendant” is used less frequently as a gender-neutral term, some argue that “descendant” is a natural and traditional neutral expression.
The definition of “descendant” according to Cambridge Dictionary is a person who is related to you and who lives after you, such as your child or grandchild.
- To the dismay of his friends, Martin had no descendants.
- John’s only descendant is the quiet man living in the heart of the village.
- As a descendant of a celebrity, Joanne is the most popular girl in her class at school.
The word “kid” is a widely used, standard, and accepted gender-neutral term for a son or a daughter. Unlike “descendant” and “offspring”, “kid” is mostly used in more informal contexts. The word “kid” is most often used when referring to younger sons and/or daughters.
Whilst the word “kid” is most often used when referring to children younger than adult-age, it is possible to use “kid” when referring to adults too.
The definition of “kid” according to Cambridge Dictionary is a child or a young person.
- James took the kids to the zoo to see the giant pandas whilst Sarah was at work.
- The kids had to stay off school because they were suffering from a heavy cold.
- He could not help but feel sorry for her poor kid.
The word “charge” is perhaps less frequently used as a gender-neutral term for a son or a daughter. Nevertheless, “charge” is a standard and accepted gender-neutral word to refer to a person in the care of another; most often a son or a daughter.
The word “charge” has many unrelated meanings which are used more frequently. Using “charge” as a gender-neutral term is fairly rare. The term “charge” is also viewed as an old-fashioned term in this context.
The definition of “charge” according to Cambridge Dictionary is a person, especially a child, who is in your care and who you are responsible for.
- Tina cared for her charge more than anyone else.
- She instructed her charge to take care of the house whilst she was on holiday.
- James drove to work with his charge in the back seat of the car.
The term “young adult” is used frequently as a gender-neutral term for a son or daughter but usually refers to a person of a particular specific age group. This means that the phrase “young adult” cannot be used when referring to sons and daughters of other ages or age groups.
The term “young adult” is a relatively formal expression and it is often used in legal contexts or more professional environments, such as workplaces.
The definition of “young adult” according to Cambridge Dictionary is a person who is in his or her late teenage years or early twenties.
- Since he became a young adult, James has become more isolated and solitary.
- Dan entered the department store and began to search for clothes for young adults.
- When her children became young adults, they became more distant from her.
The common word “baby” is used every day in conversation and sentences of an informal and formal nature. “Baby” is a standard and accepted gender-neutral term for very young sons and daughters or very young people. This is a gender-neutral noun and does not relate to masculinity or femininity.
Whilst the word “baby” is a colloquial and natural term, obviously this word cannot be used when referring to older sons and daughters.
The definition of “baby” according to Cambridge Dictionary is a very young child, especially one that has not yet begun to walk or talk.
- Sarah’s baby was born in the local hospital in the middle of the night.
- Everyone gave the baby lots of attention that day.
- The baby was born in June on a bright, sunny day.
The word “dependant” can also be used as a gender-neutral term, and refers to a person who relies on another. This word is most often used as a standard gender-neutral word for a son or daughter who is too young to work or be financially independent.
“Dependant” is most frequently used in formal contexts and conversations. It can also imply that the child or son/daughter is financially reliant upon a parent.
The definition of “dependant” according to Cambridge Dictionary is someone who depends on others for financial support, such as a child or family member who does not work.
- Mary has three dependants still living with her at home.
- Sarah’s pension will provide for her dependants in the future.
- Jane enjoys the company of her dependents, especially on the long winter nights.
The word “youth” is a relatively old-fashioned gender-neutral term for a young person who could be a son or a daughter. Whilst this term can be used when referring to male or female people, the word “youth” is most often used when referring to males or sons.
The word “youth” is also normally used when referring to people who are younger as opposed to the older generation.
- Gangs of youths were gathering outside the house.
- The youth of today.
- The youths looked miserable as they walked in the rain to school.
The word “sprog” is another far more informal gender-neutral term for a son or a daughter. In comparison to other options of term, the word “sprog” is viewed as a relatively crude expression. It usually refers to sons and daughters of a younger age.
However, whilst some may view “sprog” as a crude word, others find it affectionate or light-hearted and use it colloquially without implying any gender of masculinity or femininity.
The definition of “sprog” according to Cambridge Dictionary is a baby or a young child.
- Julie has three sprogs now called Aidan, Laura and Michael.
- Did you hear that Sarah has a sprog called Daniel?
- They decided to send their sprog to the local nursery because a friend recommended it.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.