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Is there one word or a better way to say or refer to one's "adult children"? I have never found quite the right word, and "offspring" doesn't really say it.

"That couple has two ________: one is a lawyer and the other is a politician."

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    adult children is the right term. I know of no single word for this. – Drew Apr 17 '17 at 23:51
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    grown children (i.e., children who have grown up) is another possibility, but less common. – Xanne Apr 18 '17 at 0:10
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    @xanne "grown children" is much more common: books.google.com/ngrams/… – Spencer Apr 18 '17 at 0:34
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    I prefer "grown children" or "grown kids". "Adult children" has another meaning and context in 12 step and self help lingo. "Adult children" comes from "adult children of alcoholics", but now has broader reference to adults who were abused emotionally, physically or sexually in childhood. – user227547 Apr 18 '17 at 1:44
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    @Palizsche yeah, maybe that frequent and conventional use with "surivors" in a clinical setting is what gives "adult children" the wrong flavor for informal or friendly or even (to a degree) positive reference. – Tom22 Apr 18 '17 at 1:55
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The word remains "children" regardless of their age. You can elaborate on that with "grown-up children" or, more awkwardly, "adult children" but if you're explaining that somebody's children are a lawyer and a politician then their adulthood is implied.

Child: son or daughter of human parents.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/child

  • Grown-up does make it sound like you talking to children, though. There's also simple grown. – lly Apr 19 '17 at 23:02
  • @Ily, I wonder if that's a difference between BrE and AmE? "Grown-up" would, I think, be more common in British English. – Mike C Apr 19 '17 at 23:59
  • The noun grown up is perfectly common in American English. It's just part of the register used to speak to children, like go potty and get a boo boo. You could say she's all grown up, sure, but grown children is more common in every dialect of English since they're definitionally not children any more. – lly Apr 20 '17 at 0:18
  • That is interesting, though. Wonder what other words negate their surface meanings by adding standard adjectives (i.e., adjectives apart from no &c.). – lly Apr 20 '17 at 0:21
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The most common and best way to refer to your adult children is

children

That's it. The OED entry has 16 primary senses for child but there's two main ones

A newborn child, esp. a girl; a young person below the age of puberty, esp. a boy

The offspring of human parents; a son or daughter of any age

This isn't confusing at all. Given that everyone is the child of someone, He's a child means that he either is a boy or acts with the petulant selfishness of one. He's my child means he is the offspring, issue, get, fruit &c. of my loins in union with someone else's. Adding adult just makes it weird and offputting and, if anything, pushes it back into the other definition: you're making him sound childish instead of like your child.

If you just wanted to sound lawyerly, though, the legal jargon is usually issue or, where grandchildren & al. are included, descendant. You shouldn't talk to or about your own kids that way, though, unless you want them to think you've been talking to an attorney recently and they should be nervous about the contents of your will.

  • you're right that in the example he gave, the context the lawyer and politician professions provide make any word like "adult" or "grown" unnecessary. If, however, you were asking, "Would you like me to introduce you to Sarah? She's an engineer and has two children.... the most common thing to assume is that, without qualification, children would most likely be under 12. (if they were teens I would use that instead of children) . – Tom22 Apr 18 '17 at 2:07
  • I've heard people who remarry mention that, e.g., "she had two adult children"-- – Xanne Apr 18 '17 at 2:09
  • @Tom22 That might be valid on an anonymous website but in person, for the vast majority of cases, it remains perfectly clear how old a woman's children are. Sure, men could have kids of all ages and there are exceptions but I don't think there are any contexts where it matters how old the children are where you can't tell from context on your own whether they are old enough to be out of college or not. – lly Apr 18 '17 at 5:44
  • @Xanne You could go ahead and clarify if you like, sure, but it's unnecessary and less common and, when you do, it's much more common to refer to grown children, as someone already mentioned above. – lly Apr 18 '17 at 5:45

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