I'm curious if the order implies anything here. I'm pretty sure "Mom and Dad" is standard in English. The issue was hard for me to google, so I'm asking it here:

Is using "Dad" before "Mom" incorrect, or is it just not often seen/bad practice? I see both, but "Mom and Dad" is far more prevalent.

Edit: What puzzles me is that usually masculine comes before feminine. The given umich article on word order is quite instructive, and I have yet to read all of it. In Chinese and I think Spanish, the father comes first usually.

Now that I think of it, I think German features "Mutter & Vater" more often. Probably carried over into English.

Edit 2: Some power googling reveals that "Mom and Dad" is far more prevalent during 2005-2013.

It can make a difference though, as in an example I found: "I became my girls’ Dad and Mom when one was four years, the other three months old." This is quite clearly in the voice of the father, as shown here.

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    Neither one. It's just less common. If you really want to know why it works out that way, there's an answer; but it's complicated. See Cooper and Ross, "World Order". Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 3:25
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    In my experience, Jack's parents always refer to their son and his partner as Jack and Jill, whereas Jill's parents always call them Jill and Jack. And in many other contexts, people identify first the one of a couple they've known longest, if they didn't meet them as a couple. Most of us met our mother before our father. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 3:34
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    @JohnLawler: I'd have given a +1 (if not +10) for posting that reference to "World Order" if yours was an answer instead of a comment.
    – Fr0zenFyr
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 3:58
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    "Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to the center ring, where the Wallendas will amaze you with their death-defying high-wire act." Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 5:06
  • @JohnLawler Would have loved to see a tl;dr of that book :)
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 6:45

4 Answers 4


Word collocation. Words get paired and their order becomes fixed. Also known as irreversible binomials, binomials and Siamese twins.

It's like bread and butter. You never say those words the other way round, do you?


  • Ladies and Gentlemen

    Mum and Dad

    cats and dogs

    black and white

    backwards and forwards

    thunder and lightning

    peace and quiet

Some pair words can be joined with "or" for instance

  • rain or shine

    now or never

    sooner or later

    right or wrong

    more or less

    all or nothing

Interestingly, in Italian the word order is sometimes the reverse:

  • bianco e nero (white and black)

    cani e gatti (dogs and cats)

    avanti e dietro (forwards and backwards)

    vivo o morte (alive or dead, which if you think about it, makes more sense.)

but always

  • mamma e papà (mum and dad)
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    As for "now or never", I suspect that it originates from "you do it now, otherwise you never would have a chance to"; and thus, has a reason for that order, rather than an arbitrary collocation.
    – Asahiko
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 2:57
  • @Mari-LouA - good idea. Done. Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 23:04

Actually, @JohnLawler, it's not that complicated. According to footnote 4 in that article you linked to:

This freeze [mother and father] points up the place 1 position of mother, found also in such freezes as ma and pa. We believe that mothers are special.

That is, the English language has frozen the relation "mother" in the first position of any idiomatic phrase, and the "natural ordering" of such relations is fixed. Mother always comes before other family members in a pairing because, well, English idiomatic rules think Mom is great.

  • Quite right. By complicated I meant that it's part of a larger framework, a frozen little footnote. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 14:18
  • Note how "papa and mama" definitely outranks the reverse "mama and papa" until the 1950s.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Apr 12 at 15:19

OP states:

I'm pretty sure "Mom and Dad" is standard in English.

Without commenting on 'who comes first', I'd like to point out that the term Mom is not common in British English, where the usual term is Mum, as in Mum & Dad or Mummy & Daddy.

I don't know what terms are more common in other parts of the English-speaking world that have had more of a British than American influence (such as the Antipodes).

  • Here in Australia, the British terms are similarly prevalent. (And Mum usually comes first.)
    – daviewales
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 14:12

Just to try to add something to the conversation, I do believe the common word order in English when using a compound subject when the subject is yourself and someone else is to give the other person the courtesy of coming first, and so far as I know it is quite incorrect to do it the other way around.

E.g. "Peter and I are coming for a visit."

In Latin, apparently a language where false modesty is frowned upon, it is the other way around. During the reign of Henry VIII of England, Cardinal Wolsey wrote a document in which he used the phrase "Ego et rex meus" -- which is literally "I and my king". While some have complained that Wolsey put himself before the King because of his boundless ego (and he was truly an arrogant and egotistical man), it is actually the correct way to write it in Latin! If he had written in English he would have had to write "My king and I".

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