I am translating several titles of paintings from Ukrainian into English for an upcoming exhibition/publication. Is there a single English word that means "the one who feeds"? The original word in Ukrainian is feminine gender noun describing anything from fertile nature to a wet nurse, i.e. the one that provides food.

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    A feeder? Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 6:47
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    In English, 'one who feeds' can also mean the person doing the eating. Be careful about context. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 17:49
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    Please describe the painting in more detail. Is it of a mother and child in a tender moment? Of a wet-nurse. Of something else? And what precisely does the Ukrainian word mean in English? Thank you. Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 0:21
  • "one who feeds" is ambiguous. Subject can feed Object, or Subject can feed (itself).
    – Kaz
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 2:12
  • The painting (realism with elements of impressionism) shows a road winding through a lush green meadow surrounded by the Carpathian mountains. There are a few houses in the distance, cows grazing in a field, and two figures walking along the road.
    – Lesya
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 8:25

9 Answers 9


'Nourisher' might fit. It comes close to the Ukrainian meaning, though I assume it is an uncommon word because I was unaware of it until just now, and my browser's dictionary does not know it.

Nourish (verb with object)

  1. Provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition: I was doing everything I could to nourish and protect the baby; (figurative) spiritual resources which nourished her in her darkest hours

1.1 Enhance the fertility of (soil): a clay base nourished with plant detritus

  1. Keep (a feeling or belief) in one’s mind, typically for a long time: he has long nourished an ambition to bring the show to Broadway


nourisher (noun)

Source: oxforddictionaries.com

  • Please add sources to your answer.
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 12:24
  • @Helmar are there sources that are particularly respected by this site?
    – kasfme
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 12:41
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    Have a look at this meta post for a list of references for all kinds of questions, the dictionary you picked is definitely a respected source. :) +1
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 12:43
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    As I explained in a comment on my own answer, I think nourisher, as uncommon as it is [kind of like motherer in that respect:-)], comes closest so far to answering the OP's question, taken literally. +1 Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 21:39
  • The Ukrainian word I am trying to translate is "годувальниця" (hoduval'nyts'a).
    – Lesya
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 8:28

May I suggest nurturer as a metaphor.

nurturer from the verb nurture

Verb [with object]:
Care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing:

NOUN nurturer
Women can put a different aspect to decision-making because they're nurturers of their families.

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    Nurturer fits well in theory, but is a very uncommon word in noun form. So if the OP is looking for something more idiomatic I would recommend against this
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 17:01

Provider might suit the general range of the Ukrainian noun. There is no reason why provider needs to be semantically restricted to human agents; the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote an essay "On Nature as our Best Provider".

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    Or rather, the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote an essay that can be titled in English as "On Nature as our Best Provider", without straining the meaning of the word "Provider". You can't cite Seneca as an authority on the correct use of the English language, you can cite the translator :-) Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 17:20
  • @SteveJessop, yes that's a better way to put it, agreed.
    – IanS
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 0:47

Swinburne uses an exact, and nowadays rare, poetic word: fostress

My mother sea, my fostress, what new strand,
What new delight of waters, may this be,
The fairest found since time's first breezes fanned
   My mother sea?

The male form is fosterer, from

foster: Old English fōstrian ‘feed, nourish,’ from fōster ‘food, nourishment,’ of Germanic origin; related to food. (from Google Dictionary)

Etymologically nurse, from the Old French nourice based on Latin nutricia "she who nourishes", is the word, but, of course, it came to mean a person trained to care for the sick or infirm, not just one who provides food, and won't work in your case.


Possibly "nurturer". It has the connotations of helping another to thrive, not just feed them food, although that could be part of it. Look up "nurture" and see if that is closer to your Ukrainian meaning.

What a lovely thing to have a single word for. I don't think English really has. "Nurture" is more often used as a verb or adjective, though I do think "nurturer" is acceptable. Certainly the meaning would be understood by English speakers.


How about motherer?

motherer: agent noun of mother: one who mothers

  • Re downvote: What's the problem? It fits the OP's question. Remember that the OP is trying to translate the titles of a few paintings. The Ukrainian word is a feminine noun. Do you know Ukrainian? Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 13:20
  • I didn't downvote, but I am guessing the reason is that motherer is a very uncommon word, so it is going to come across as a very strange translation
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 17:02
  • @KevinWells Appreciate the thought, but at least it answers the question and could work. Maybe on another planet. It really is a funny word. :-) Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 17:33
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    My downvote is because mothering implies a lot more than just feeding. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 17:49
  • @CarlWitthoft Thanks for the explanation. I appreciate the opportunity to respond. I figured the painting would make obvious the specific type of mothering involved. Note that provider and nurturer have the same problem as motherer: each implies more than just feeding (let alone breast feeding). Nourisher doesn't have this problem, at least if you rule out spiritual and perhaps other types of non-food-related nourishment. Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 18:09

These also come to mind:


Noun (plural rearers)

One who rears (nurtures children or animals). A horse or other animal that rears up.

breadwinner a breadwinner often indirectly feeds their family


The breadwinner is defined as someone who earns money to support a family.


How about nurser?

nurser: a woman employed to suckle children other than her own; a wet nurse.

Nurser seems to fit the OP's desire for:

... a single English word that means "the one who feeds"? The original word in Ukrainian is feminine gender noun describing anything from fertile nature to a wet nurse, i.e. the one that provides food.

Compared to the other responses, nurser has the advantage of focusing on feeding but nothing more. And it's not a strange or obscure word, like motherer. :-)


Could 'mother' work? The word 'mother' often has connotations of someone who cares, nurtures and feeds. This can be seen in terms like Mother Nature, Mother Earth, mother village &c. Although, it might be a bit odd with the particular example of 'wet nurse' since obviously they aren't the mother.

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