From the perspective of grammar, the female equivalent of son obviously is daughter.

But here's my question: It seems to be some kind of cliché that some people (Priests, wise men, or even real fathers) refer to young boys by "son" when speaking directly to them: e.g., "Son, you know that..."

Simply putting it in the correct female form "Daughter, you know that..." feels wrong, somehow. How would a person often calling young boys "son" call young girls?

What about - Again, we're talking about some kinds of stereotyped clichés here - a priest with an adopted daugther? I could definitely imagine him calling an adopted son son, while I don't know what such a person would call a daugther.

Asking because I am currently practicing my English by writing a small story.

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    Have you consider "child"? – AdamO Aug 15 '16 at 23:19
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    Certainly "daughter" is used in many US sub-cultures, but a slightly more common alternative is "child". "Son" has a special status because of the emphasis (mistakenly?) placed on father-son "bonding". – Hot Licks Aug 15 '16 at 23:21
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    Good question. The closest thing I can think of in anything like English smacks rather of the British Isles and especially some of the less English parts thereof: my lass. The (modern) Greeks hit this nail on the head with κορίτσι μου. – Brian Donovan Aug 15 '16 at 23:28
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    Priests and some wise men (are they disjoint sets?) would use 'Daughter', but not whatever really. People from Yorkshire (probably very wise men would use 'Eh, lass ...'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '16 at 23:38
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    From a usage standpoint, the (not exactly) parallel term is 'miss'. – JEL Aug 16 '16 at 2:46

If the person speaking to the girl is not related, a common thing would be to say "young lady, you know that..."

If the speaker is her father, "young lady" may seem too formal. Her dad would probably just call her by her first name, as in "Jenny, you know that..."

This is, of course, assuming the girl is, in fact, a young lady. Usually, when someone refers to another male as "son", that male is a young man or boy. So, that is why I am saying that "young lady" would work for a female here.

  • Right, "young lady" definitely seems like a good possibility. But also, as you already said, a little too formal for an actual parent-daughter relationship. – DatQuestionTho Aug 16 '16 at 11:06
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    Young lady is usually used in a "jokingly formal" way, and often used as part of a mild (again often semi-serious) rebuke, like "Don't you talk to me like that, young lady!" . The same rules apply for "Young man" for male children. – Max Williams Aug 16 '16 at 11:18

If the father talking to her daughter, he probably talk "Honey, that is not how you treat your brother." If the man talking to other girl that is not related to him, i guess cliff answer is correct, "Young lady, that is not how you treat your mother."

  • A man using "honey" to address an unrelated female would likely be considered to be "improper". – Hot Licks Aug 16 '16 at 0:42
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    In my answer i clearly wrote "..the father talking to her daughter.." – tyty Aug 16 '16 at 0:51

I think the closest and least condescending equivalent is Dear or My Dear. It is more casual than Young Lady, but perhaps less cliche, which was one of the required fields.

An affectionate or friendly form of address.

It adds an immediate connection, and has the same disarming effect that using Son in the way that you described does.

  • Yes, that definitely also sounds like a good possiblity. I fear that it sounds a little bit too "mature", though - As in, something a parent would call his/her spouse, or an already grown up daugther. I may be wrong though, obviously. What do you think? – DatQuestionTho Aug 16 '16 at 11:12
  • Well when I've heard it used, it is a spouse's term of endearment second, and a broad term for females first. I use it frequently myself when speaking to strangers, though I use 'my friend' as the male counterpart, rather than 'son,' because I myself am relatively young. 'Young Lady' may be the closest equivalent that mirrors the condescension aspect in 'son,' but 'dear' is much more commonly used I find. – user191160 Aug 16 '16 at 12:16

Lass is defined by Meriam-Webster as:

a girl or young woman

This term could be substituted with son.

Lass, you know not to chew with your mouth open.

  • Ah, didn't know about that word. How widely is it used? – DatQuestionTho Aug 16 '16 at 11:05
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    "Lass" is widely used in the north-east of England, as the female counterpart of "lad". The similar "Lassie" (and "laddie") is widely used in Scotland (and Ireland I think). In the north east of England "lass" can also mean "girlfriend". I'd say that most British people are familar with the words even if they don't use them. – Max Williams Aug 16 '16 at 11:20

And then there was Miss Jean Brodie, who, in her prime, simply addressed them as "Little girls," which today may sound offensive. Sage advice, given by someone in a position of authority to a female charge, most comfortably begins with "My dear..." It is the equivalent of "son."

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