For example: when using inheritance with classes in Java, I have a parent and two classes which inherit from that parent. Do I refer to these as 'children' or as 'childs'? In other words, what is the plural of 'child' in terms of class?

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    Welcome to EL&U. One of the expectations of StackExchange is that you demonstrate your initial attempts at research. Have you found any examples of childs in any reputable source?
    – choster
    Jun 6, 2017 at 15:30
  • If the argument be put forward that this is a different question, being Java- or UML-specific, were that the case it would render the question off-topic on ELU. Jun 6, 2017 at 19:06
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    Been in the computer biz over 45 years, and I've only ever heard "children" (except from some E2L folks).
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 6, 2017 at 19:11

3 Answers 3


Since you specifically referred to the Java programming language, the official terms are superclasses and subclasses, not parents or children, according to the Java Language Specification, section 8.1.4.

The concept of parent and child belongs to the Unified Modeling Language, which uses genetic relations to model class inheritance. Where the UML specification refers to plural classes with inheritance, it does so with the terms parents and children. See the UML Specification, Section for such an example. Childs would be completely incorrect.

  • And this is ELU, not UMLU. Jun 6, 2017 at 19:09
  • @EdwinAshworth He's not asking about UML or Java. He wants to know what English speakers call the concept. It's no different than asking the English term for the part of a hammer that a carpenter strikes a nail with.
    – Rob K
    Jun 6, 2017 at 19:56
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    @EdwinAshworth the question pretty clearly states "what is the plural of 'child' in terms of class?" I tried to answer the question both with an eye to the Java programming language (which he said he's using), and to UML, where the concept of parent/child originated within the context of class inheritance. After all, he tagged the question with "computing". Sorry if you disagree. Jun 6, 2017 at 21:49
  • @Rob K No; it's like asking whether the Jefferson Extractor possesses an 'anvil'. Jun 6, 2017 at 23:42
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    @EdwinAshworth So only the very most general uses of English words are on topic here? Not from what I've seen already. There are millions of programmers around the world, and most of them speak English to one degree or another because most computer languages come from English speaking countries. Moreover, regardless of what the Java language spec says, programmers who code in Java, and C++, C#, python, ruby, perl, delphi, and all the other object-oriented languages speak of parent and child classes, without ever having learned a whit of UML.
    – Rob K
    Jun 7, 2017 at 1:43

Many people regularise to computer mouses because when referencing something so completely different to the "original" meaning, they feel it's a "different word" (which allows them to ignore the irregular form).

But it's important to note that "child" in the computer context is nowhere near as familiar to ordinary mainstream Anglophones as "mouse", so they'd very rarely be exposed to other people overruling the irregular plural. And in contexts like this, although people might in principle be more than willing to adopt the regular form for the "neologistic" usage, few of them really want to be "early adopters" (sometimes, in case others think they're simply being ignorant).

The other important factor is that whereas there's no easy "workaround" for the problem with mice/mouses, it's not usually a problem to simply refer to child classes rather than children.

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    But the correct plural of "computer mouse" is "computer meeses".
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 6, 2017 at 19:12
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    In 25 years of programing, I don't think I've ever heard anyone pluralize mouse to mouses.
    – Rob K
    Jun 6, 2017 at 19:50
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    @RobK Consider yourself lucky. It grates on the ears.
    – mbomb007
    Jun 6, 2017 at 21:52
  • Either Wired or Dr. Dobbs did an article about it quite some time ago.
    – Raydot
    Jun 6, 2017 at 22:04
  • @Rob K, mbomb007: Do you guys have a problem with multiple still lifes, the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, or Sony Walkmans? It largely comes down to whether you feel that the neologistic meaning constitutes a "new word" or not. I certainly don't see much of a connection to lives, leaves, men in those cases. Jun 7, 2017 at 12:15

The FreeBSD manual page for the ps command (process status) says, among other things:

-S Change the way the process times, namely cputime, systime, and usertime, are calculated by summing all exited children to their parent process.

FreeBSD is based on Berkeley unix, so other unix varieties probably also use the word "children" as the plural of child. However, the term "child process" and thus the plural "child processes" may be preferable in many contexts.

  • Is a child process the same thing as a child object?
    – Raydot
    Jun 6, 2017 at 22:05
  • @DaveKaye -- There may be many different kinds of entities in a computer system. A process is one type of entity, and an object is another. On some systems a process is considered to be an object; on others, not.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 6, 2017 at 23:58
  • ...says he, rhetorically...
    – Raydot
    Jun 7, 2017 at 16:45

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