Just read this in Emma Donoghue's book "Room". Is there a word for adults who are not parents?

  • 3
    As a parent, I have often thought that adults who don't have to care for children are not real adults. They are themselves grown-up children, because they've never had to think of anyone's happines but their own. ;=)
    – Robusto
    May 6, 2011 at 12:38
  • 2
    The question is ambiguous. Do you mean an adult who is not a carer for any other person, or an adult who does look after a person but is not that person's parent? May 6, 2011 at 13:22
  • 2
    As a parent, I have often thought that adults who don't have children must be the LUCKIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, because they never have to think of anyone's happiness but their own. And they aren't in for 100K$ per child for college expenses.
    – horatio
    May 6, 2011 at 14:36
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    @Robusto: I've met plenty of parents that still only think of their own happiness ;P
    – Tester101
    May 6, 2011 at 15:49
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    @Robusto and @horatio -- as a childless, married, adult, I can assure you that not all of us are lucky, selfish, grown-up children. Many of us spend hundreds of hours a year with other peoples' children, especially those children who don't have functional parents. We're still part of the village. May 6, 2011 at 22:20

5 Answers 5



The word "adult" does not imply that one is a parent, so there is no need for a word that describes a childless adult.

  • 6
    Or a featherless adult, for that matter.
    – bmargulies
    May 6, 2011 at 17:38
  • It's worth noting that in some contexts, "virgin" has simply meant "women who does not yet have children" rather than the perhaps more modern, as it were, "not yet had sex".
    – Fattie
    May 12, 2014 at 6:23
  • childless (comes with the expectation of adult and married)

  • barren (more about the inability to have children rather than the state of lack thereof)


Doing a wikicrawl revealed these two terms:

  • DINK or DINKY — dual (or double) income, no kids (yet)
  • childfree — individuals who neither have children nor desire to have children

Both of these hold a lot of connotation. DINK is somewhat derogatory; childfree is almost seen as a lifestyle choice similar to vegetarianism or recycling.

  • The only good answer.
    – Fattie
    May 12, 2014 at 6:26

As MikeVaughan proposed, Guardian seems a logical choice for someone who's with you in order to protect you in some fashion, but who is also not your parent.

May I also propose bachelor? That also implies someone who isn't married, but if that applies in your case, then this would be another possibility.

  • 1
    Bachelors can have children.
    – Andy
    May 6, 2011 at 15:38
  • 5
    Technically, so can barren adults or guardians. Though I think you'd be hard-pressed to assume someone having children after calling him a bachelor, and ultimately interpretation is what counts.
    – Neil
    May 6, 2011 at 15:49
  • very true.
    – Andy
    May 6, 2011 at 16:03

Childless adults are called Childfree.

  • So, why did you post that? It's right there in MrHen's answer, posted three years ago.
    – teylyn
    May 14, 2014 at 8:45

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