Is there a feminine form of the word bastard? It seems like bastard is a word that’s applied to male children only.

  • The male tilt on bastard may be due to there being no male form of "bitch." At least, that's why I was using it. – MrHen Mar 31 '11 at 18:54
  • @hrhen: Bitch is definitely equivalent in terms of profanity, at least in modern english. I'm specifically looking for something that has the older connotation, before it became a general pejorative. – Satanicpuppy Mar 31 '11 at 18:55
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Talking about the archaic use of bastard to mean “illegitimate child”, it is not specifically masculine. One can talk about a “bastard daugther” just as much as one can talk of a “bastard son” or “bastard child”, as Google ngram shows. Well, not as much, because lineage or legitimacy is not nearly as important for daughters as it is for sons, but still, such usage is attested.

  • 4
    Also note that "bastardized" can be used to describe anything created illegitimately. Although in later times (Victorian era onward) the idea of a child being bastard (adj.) has carried increasing moral opprobrium, originally the stronger meaning of the term focused on rights to inherit property. – The Raven Mar 31 '11 at 19:22
  • Probably why in literature it mainly applies to sons - it didn't matter if a daughter is legitimate or not – mgb Mar 31 '11 at 20:07

The human rights organization Bastard Nation suggests the term has always been gender neutral. Certainly a bastard child could be male or female.

Typical with religious institutions, Latin terms were used in Parish birth records:

Nothus (gnothus) bastard, illegitimate

Filia nothus for female girl

Filius nothus for male child

  • Shouldn't it be filia notha? Or did they not know Latin in the parish churches? – Peter Shor Jun 20 '14 at 21:09
  • @PeterShor Latin words and abbreviations Fil = Son or Daughter: Filius = Son: Filia = Daughter: Nothus = Illegitimate: Uxor = Wife: Vid = Widow: kidwellyhistory.co.uk/Registers/Intro.htm – Third News Jun 20 '14 at 21:32
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    In Latin, the adjectives get declined to match the gender of the noun: nothus for masculine, notha for feminine, nothum for neuter. So it should be filia notha, unless whoever is recording the birth records knows no Latin whatsoever. – Peter Shor Jun 20 '14 at 23:04
  • I looked at several parish/genealogy/township records and they were consistent with this use -Consuetudo, jus et norma loquendi – Third News Jun 20 '14 at 23:29
  • nothus, notus or gnotus literally means known and should decline in agreement with its noun. In this context it should be for illegitimate children recognised by their fathers. If unrecognised, ignotus would be the better Latin. – Henry Jul 18 '14 at 1:27

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