(EDITED minimally 5 hours after posting, to apply corrections in terminology suggested by members in comments -- the original question was "is 'infant child' grammatically correct?")

Infant is one of my favorite words, and I also like the term "infant child" which is found quite commonly on Google search. However the common definition of 'infant' is 'child, very young' and the medical definition of 'infant' is 'child aged below 1 year.' The word 'child' is implicit within the meaning of 'infant'. This seems to be an example of redundancy which English language teachers and textbooks generally advise students to avoid. In that case, Is it all right to use the term "infant child" in writing? (If not, why is it found used on websites and even by the media?)





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    Yes, it is grammatically correct, as are baby child, baby adult, grown baby, child adult, adult child, infant adult, adult infant... The combinations are seemingly endless. – Arm the good guys in America Apr 26 '17 at 16:29
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    I was thinking of redundancy as in "baby child", "fast express train", "deadly and lethal", "brothel house", etc. Am I to understand that redundancy does not affect grammatical correctness? – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 16:39
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    @English That's one problem putting too little emphasis on grammar, is it not? It very well could leave one in a situation where one cannot even answer the question What is grammar? My question is why should alleged redundancy have anything at all whatsoever to do with "grammar"? – Arm the good guys in America Apr 26 '17 at 16:48
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    @ Clare I seem to have used 'grammar' out of context. I am simply interested to know whether using possible redundancies like 'infant child' in writing is all right. Even if it is grammatically correct, many English language teachers and textbooks advise students to avoid redundancy. – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 17:25
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    @Mitch Thank you for the reference to 'pleonasm' {Pleonasm (/ˈpliːənæzəm/; from Greek πλεονασμός (pleonasmós), from πλέον (pleon), meaning 'more, too much') is the use of more words or parts of words than are necessary or sufficient for clear expression: examples are black darkness, burning fire. Such redundancy is, by traditional rhetorical criteria, a manifestation of tautology. That being said, people may use a pleonasm for emphasis or because the phrase has already become established in a certain form. source: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleonasm} – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 22:29

A dictionary is your best friend here...

child (Oxford)

A young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority.

The age of majority, in the UK and USA, is 18 (except for a few states in America) courtesy of Wikipedia:

Alabama (19),

Colorado (21),

Mississippi (21),

Nebraska (19),

Puerto Rico (21)

puberty: (Oxford)

The period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.

What does this mean in terms of age? From NHS.uk:

The average age for girls to begin puberty is 11, while for boys the average age is 12. But there’s no set timetable, so don’t worry if your child reaches puberty before or after their friends. It’s completely normal for puberty to begin at any point from the ages of 8 to 14. The process takes about four years overall.

So, child refers to any human being up to at least approximately eight years old, but conventionally up to about 11-12 or depending on who you are talking to and their personal opinions regarding the use of the word, all the way up to eighteen years old (the age of majority).

On the other hand: - infant (Oxford)

A very young child or baby.

Note the use of the word 'baby', or very young. An infant isn't just a young child, it's a very young child, not much older than a baby.

So there you have it, yes it's perfectly fine to use the phrase infant child.

Infant is modifying child, such that it is clear the child you are speaking of is a baby or a very young child.

Regarding the grammatical construction this is very basic English. The phrase is working the same way chicken soup, works for instance. Chiken is modifying soup, like infant is modifying child.

The first noun is termed a noun adjunct, attributive noun, or noun modifier:

In grammar, a noun adjunct or attributive noun or noun (pre)modifier is an optional noun that modifies another noun; it is a noun functioning as a pre-modifier in a noun phrase. For example, in the phrase "chicken soup" the noun adjunct "chicken" modifies the noun "soup".

You can read more about noun modifiers, on the associated Wikipedia page.

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    Thank you for the explanation. My only question would be whether it is not sufficient to say "infant" rather than "infant child" -- I suppose both are all right! – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 16:48
  • @EnglishStudent From a pure semantic point of view, I would agree infant child is a tautology (a phrase or expression in which the same thing is said twice in different words.) Poetically however, the repetition might serve some effect, as you are reiterating how young the individual is, so the construction may not always be a blatant fault in style depending on the effect the writer was looking to achieve. – Gary Apr 26 '17 at 16:56
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    The original derivation of 'infant' was from Latin words meaning 'not speaking', so an 'infant child' was one who is too young to talk, but this usage is rather archaic. – Kate Bunting Apr 27 '17 at 8:45

I believe that infant child would be used to indicate: a person's Offspring or Ward that was a baby, under 1 year old or even younger by some definitions.

I could see this coupling within a formal contract or corporate policy document etc. In that case there would usually be separate formal definitions of 'child' and 'infant' and coupling them together would mean that subset of children that qualify for certain treatment that are also infants that are entitled to additional special treatment.


1A very young child or baby. ‘healthy infants’ as modifier ‘infant mortality’



A young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority. ‘she'd been playing tennis since she was a child’ ‘the film is not suitable for children’


1.1 A son or daughter of any age.

‘when children leave home, parents can feel somewhat redundant’

You could say: "My first child attended Yale university and is now the district attorney in Bergen county".

I believe it is the second definition of child that refers to a parental relationship that is used when you use Both Infant AND Child together.

Perhaps you could just say more succinctly

"Their infant" but many might say that a human does not simply 'belong' to someone even parents..parenting is different than "having" or "possessing"

That's my theory at least.


"Our absentee policy entitles workers with infant children to an extra 5 paid personal days off a year. Family members under the age of 6 months old shall qualify as infants. Children shall refer to an employees dependents for which they have legal custody of under the age of 18 years old." (really in a policy the last two sentences would likely have appeared elsewhere in the document first)

  • That is a fresh angle on the scope of these terms! It might certainly be standard terminology for certain legal processes -- thank you for calling my attention to something I had not previously thought of! – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 21:43
  • I also appreciate your well-worded example: "Our absentee policy entitles workers with infant children to an extra 5 paid personal days off a year. Family members under the age of 6 months old shall qualify as infants..." – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 21:47
  • Thanks... sorry if I was direct in my other response. It's interesting how our experiences can shape how we read things. – Tom22 Apr 26 '17 at 21:51
  • No offense at all! It is the mildest form of disagreement to be direct -- it is a frank and honest method. Many persons use indirect means which are far worse! – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 22:23

Generally speaking infant alone would be sufficient. Not always. British English has an unusual use of infant (normally plural or qualifying school). It refers to the first three years of proper school (starting at age 4/5), which is not what you might expect from the usual definition. A pupil at such a school could be referred to as one of the infants, in contrast with the next few years, known as juniors. This is especially true where the infant and junior schools are combined into one primary school.

Infancy is of course also used figuratively. So the redundancy (which isn't a matter of grammar) is only partial and context-based.

  • True indeed! In fact, these terms for primary school persist in India. In R.K.Narayan's humorous/social novel "Swami and Friends" (1935) the protagonist Swami (a schoolboy of 10 or 11) "walked past the infant classes on the way to the headmaster's room", etc -- a very nice use of the term! – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 21:03

Infant child is redundant. If you were to ask, "What kind of child?" or "What age child?" the answer "an infant" is sufficient. People know automatically that you're talking about a very young child. In other words, you can drop the word "child." As an editor, I would always cut the word "child" from the phrase "infant child."

  • Thanks and upvote (+1) -- In fact 'infant' is the term found much more commonly in print and 'infant child' seems to be a less common variant heard more often in informal speech, etc – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 18:13
  • I should like to accept your answer also. Is it all right to accept 2 answers which do not say the same thing? Grammar Gurus at EL & U please advise! – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 18:16
  • @EnglishStudent 1) I vote up multiple answers all the time if they add information to either the OP or would be worth reading to someone who had a similar question in the future ... especially when it is a request for meaning or word or phase substitutions – Tom22 Apr 26 '17 at 19:10
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    @EnglishStudent I disagree with your sense that "infant child" is informal. I feel the opposite and feel like you would see that wording within a contract or formal policy that referred to children as defined as being ward in one part of the contract, and infants, as defined elsewhere within the contract as being under certain age. – Tom22 Apr 26 '17 at 19:12
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    @Tom22 That is a fresh angle on the scope of these terms! It might certainly be standard terminology for certain legal processes -- thank you for calling my attention to something I had not previously thought of! – English Student Apr 26 '17 at 20:54

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