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The etymology of love child says it derived as a polite form of "love brat" which was used around the 18th century.

My question is when two people are in love and they have a child, could you not call him/her a "love child"?

Edit: Why does it have to have the (rather negative) connotation that it is outside of marriage, when love itself is a positive emotion?

Funny enough, "love child" makes sense in Indian English, where there is a concept of "love marriage" and "arranged marriage" - as has been earlied posted.

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If you want to say, that child was conceived by a couple in love, married or not, you can say child of love. –  Philoto Jun 9 '11 at 10:16
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@Philoto: Interesting, Robusto's answer opposes that term. –  JoseK Jun 9 '11 at 10:21
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If two people are in love and married, you need not qualify their child's legitimacy, which is why we don't use "love child" for them. And I think love is used here precisely because it has a positive connotation, in order to mitigate what (used to be) such a terrible truth. And love child is wanted and cared for; a bastard child might not be. –  KitFox Jun 9 '11 at 12:11
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can't really change the meaning of a word to suit your taste. "Love child" refers to a child born to parents not married to each other, and that is what people take away from it. If you ignore what others think and only pay attention to how you mean a word, you will cause your listeners or readers confusion or merriment.

(Incidentally, the word "love child" carries the same stigma in some other languages as well. 愛の子 (ai no ko or "child of love") means exactly the same thing.)

EDIT

Answering OP's question about how did it come to have a negative connotation. From Wikipedia article about Legitimacy:

At common law, legitimacy is the status of a child who is born to parents who are legally married to one another, or who is born shortly after the parents' marriage ends through divorce. In both canon and civil law, the offspring of putative marriages have been considered legitimate. For the opposite of legitimacy, the term illegitimate has been used about a child born to a woman and a man not married to one another, though in many societies today such terminology has become obsolete even in law, and abandoned in common communication in favor of less abrasive words such as extramarital or love child.

Illegitimate is a pejorative term, and, euphemism or no, love child ultimately inherits that meaning from its ancestor.

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I dont intend to use it to mean otherwise, I was wondering how it came to be (rather) negative when love itself is a positive emotion. –  JoseK Jun 9 '11 at 10:20
    
Hm, maybe. I didn't research it's Japanese meaning, just liked the sound of it. And since I heard it used in a fictional society without any concept of marriage, it could've meant anything. Thanks for clarification :) –  Philoto Jun 9 '11 at 10:24
    
@JoseK Because for a very long time almost all societies on Earth considered making love outside marriage as a shameful thing, especially for girls. She could've lost any chance of marrying at all if it became public knowledge. And a child, born from such an alliance, is the surest way to make it public knowledge. –  Philoto Jun 9 '11 at 10:28
    
@Philoto: that comment should be an answer - makes sense to me. –  JoseK Jun 9 '11 at 10:35
    
@JoseK If you wish :) –  Philoto Jun 9 '11 at 10:41
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Love child can have a rather negative meaning because for a very long time almost all societies on Earth considered making love outside marriage as a shameful thing, especially for girls. She could've lost any chance of marrying at all if it became public knowledge. And a child, born from such an alliance, is the surest way to make it public knowledge.

There are lots of dramas in literature that illustrate my point. Walter Scott's "Betrothed", Griboedov's "Woe from Wit", "The Headless Horseman" by Mayne Reid and others.

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I'd hazard that The Scarlet Letter is the most famous of these. –  Jordan Reiter Jun 9 '11 at 14:06
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