If a man has a child with another woman while still married to his first wife, how would the child refer to the wife? Stepmother or is that only for births occurring prior to a parent marrying a non-parent?

  • 1
    No. And I know of no special name for the man's wife relative to the child, who is unrelated to her. She is the wife of the child's father; that's all.
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 23:29
  • 3
    This is opinion, but it seems to me that where the child lives is very important. If the child is staying many days a month with her father and his wife, and is included in many or most family outings (going to church, vacations, birthday celebrations) where the woman is present, she is part of that household and the woman is the mother of that household and hence, I would use the word stepmother. If the child is living full time with her mother and only sees her father separately from the rest of his family, "stepmother" would lead people to believe there was a more extensive relationship
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 23:59

3 Answers 3


This is one hundred percent an opinion. It depends on how that child feels around his fathers new lover, it doesn't matter if it is religiously or traditionally correct to be known as a specific label.



a woman who has married one's father after the death or divorce of one's mother


Allow me to offer a hypothesis (and do correct me if I'm wrong):

The word "stepmother" dates back to Old English, i.e. an epoch when the idea of getting a divorce was unthinkable, or at least extremely problematic. The original mother of the child would have to be a witch or something, in which case she would have been "dead to us."

Today, a woman is only seriously (i.e. not ironically or sarcastically) referred to as a stepmother if the biological mother has either died or completely abandoned the child. I think. To put it another way: a stepmother is someone who actually raises the child.

  • The bit about Old English is misleading (and you should remove it). While the word did exist, it referred to something different: "Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan, but the notion of orphanage faded in 20c. and came to denote simply relation through marriage" ~EO
    – Laurel
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 0:06
  • 1
    @Ricky, many children have a mother with whom they live and a stepmother married to their father with whom they may live part time. There are many blended families these days. There are also a lot of co-parenting arrangements between divorced spouses who share children.
    – user227547
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 0:13

Stepmother is a legal term, clearly defined. In 60 years I’ve never heard it dragooned into any other use.

It’s much less common today but it was once the automatic norm to call an adult with no legal status but some kind of socially recognised special relationship to a family with children Uncle Hisname or, as here, Aunt Hername.

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