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How similar or different is "putative" to "surrogate"? The term "surrogate father" is common, "putative father" is fairly so, too. But what may be the difference in connotation?

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, bib, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, Josh61, RyeɃreḁd Jun 3 '14 at 16:43

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The words have very different meanings. Did you look them up in a dictionary? I don't really see where your confusion comes from, could you explain what you did not understand from the definitions? – terdon Jun 3 '14 at 11:39
Rather than not understand the definitions, I fail to see how they differ.. But as you say they are different.. – Effector Dhanushanth Jun 3 '14 at 15:16
I get it now.. putative is in the shadows of "alleged".. negative connotation? – Effector Dhanushanth Jun 3 '14 at 15:18
Putative is basically possible or potential while surrogate is replacement. The words are really not similar at all. – terdon Jun 3 '14 at 15:21
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The two are hardly alike at all.

a putative father is a man who is said to be the biological father of a child without that fact being completely sure.

While it does not have to have a negative connotation, in many cases it can have them, because using the word questions the actual fatherhood. There are plenty of situations in which that doubt will be perceived as negative, although in some (clinical?) situations, it is not completely neutral.

I would not, however, expect a man to proudly go around and claim to be a child's putative father.

A surrogate father can roughly mean three things, non of them having normally negative connotations:

  • A man who is not the father of a child but fulfils the father role for it.
  • A man who donated his sperm for a child to be conceived, but does not play the father role.
  • A man who became a father through the use of a surrogate mother.

For these three, and especially the 3rd definition, see here. I have not heard it often used in that sense, but it seems to be in use.

Contrary to putative, there is no doubt or uncertainty involved in the case of a surrogate father.

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I am struck by the oddness of the fact that your first two definitions for surrogate father are based on criteria that are precisely opposite in each case. (That crazy old English, eh? :) – Erik Kowal Jun 3 '14 at 9:54
In one case he acts as a surrogate by filling another man's genetic role, in the other he acts as a surrogate by filling another man's social role. Not entirely opposite. – Neil W Jun 3 '14 at 11:15
But I think the definition above of putative father is not entirely right. The putative father is the man regarded as the father, and since we are qualifying his fatherhood that way, we imply his actual fatherhood is questionable. It has nothing to do with his legal relationship with the mother though. – Neil W Jun 3 '14 at 11:21
I really don't see how marriage is relevant here. Yes, in certain conservative societies, having a child out of wedlock is still frowned upon, but putative has nothing to do with the parent's legal relationship, only with the relationship between the father and child. – terdon Jun 3 '14 at 11:38
@Neil, you are right. There are two possibilities for the putative father indeed. The biological father without the "proper" relationship, as I mentioned, but I guess it can also be the guy who socially is supposed to be the father, though there may be suspicions about the actual biological part. – oerkelens Jun 3 '14 at 11:39

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