9

If multiple people each have a first child, are those children collectively referred to as first children or first childs? The former seems more consistent with the usual plural of child, but the latter also seems plausible, since a given person only has a single first child.

  • 3
    possible duplicate of What is the plural of 'only child'? – Dan Bron Oct 27 '14 at 15:41
  • 4
    Analogous to Mari-Lou A's comment.answer there, I'd say first children is correct, but confusing - you could use firstborn. Can't find a quick reference (ODO mentions it as a noun, but names no plural) but I have the feeling it can be used unchanged as a plural: Twelve families with their firstborn. You could always opt for the less archaic adjective form: Twelve families and their firstborn children. – oerkelens Oct 27 '14 at 15:47
  • 2
    What if the first children you have are twins? And what if they're both bald but for one hair each and you take them to get a haircut? What do you ask the barber? – Mitch Oct 27 '14 at 15:50
  • @Mitch Even if the twins/etc are delivered via CSection instead of naturally, they're removed one at a time. The 1st one out is the firstborn, if only by a minute or three. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Oct 27 '14 at 20:42
  • This question isn't a duplicate of the one mentioned by @DanBron because the answer isn't first children, but rather firstborns or firstborn children. The expression *firstborn is nowhere to be seen in either of the two questions, and I see very little connection with the meaning of "only child". Firstborn means the eldest child/sibling. – Mari-Lou A Oct 28 '14 at 3:39
19

A first child is commonly called firstborn; therefore I'd venture to say that the plural form is firstborn children.

The one thing you can bet your paycheck on is the firstborn and second-born in any given family are going to be different," says Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist who has studied birth order since 1967 and author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are (Revell). (...) Psychologists like Leman believe the secret to sibling personality differences lies in birth order -- whether you're a first-, middle-, last-born, or only child -- and how parents treat their child because of it.

However, the same article uses the plural term firstborns. In fact typing the term in Google books receives 36,300 results

Firstborns bask in their parents' presence, which may explain why they sometimes act like mini-adults. Firstborns are diligent and want to be the best at everything they do. They excel at winning the hearts of their elders.

http://www.parents.com/baby/development/social/birth-order-and-personality/

While firstborn children (two words) gets 16,100 hits

Firstborn children really do excel, reveals groundbreaking study
What do Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, JK Rowling and Beyoncé have in common? Other than riding high in Forbes list of the world's most powerful women, they are also all firstborn children in their families.

The Guardian

Finally, it can also be written with the hyphen, first-born children. Google Books produces a healthier 390,000 results

EDIT

Google Ngram suggests that between the mid-1960s and 70s the plural form, firstborns, has taken over firstborn children and is far more common in the US (red) than in the UK (blue), which I confess I found a little surprising.

Google Ngram chart plotting AmEng firstborns and firstborn children vs. BrEng firstb

| improve this answer | |
  • Your comment on the other question inspired my comment on this one! Do you concur that firstborn used as a noun can be treated as a mass-noun? Or would you simply advice against using it as a noun? – oerkelens Oct 27 '14 at 15:49
  • @Orkelens: the biblical "plague of the firstborn" certainly uses firstborn as a plural. It's not a mass noun because you would say "the firstborn were" and not "the firstborn was" when you're using it to refer to two or more firstborn children. It's an adjective, and you don't usually add s to adjectives when they are used as nouns — "only the good die young". – Peter Shor Oct 27 '14 at 16:06
  • You can also use the plural form, firstborns. Sorry, for the delay but my computer is sooo slow today :( – Mari-Lou A Oct 27 '14 at 16:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.