"Stripling" is an alternative word for a youth. According to the Cambridge Dictionary:

stripling noun [ C ] /ˈstrɪp.lɪŋ/
old-fashioned or humorous ​
a young man.

It is derived from the use of the word "strip" as a description for something slim or narrow.

I used the word in an essay for publication recently and was surprised when my well-educated US proofreader confessed himself ignorant of its meaning. It's a little archaic but I think most British speakers would be familiar with it.

Is it a word that's absent from US English?

  • 1
    I am American and know the word; and ngram reveals no great difference in its frequency between American and British English. (Both show considerable decline in frequency since C19 but a slight resurgence in C21.) Jul 27, 2017 at 12:01
  • 1
    I'm British, and while I'm vaguely familiar with it I wouldn't say that it's commonly used at all. As far as etymology goes I'd always assumed it was a botanical reference, perhaps meaning something like "sapling". This is actually not the case at all. Jul 27, 2017 at 12:05
  • 1
    I'm American and in my 60s. I'm modestly familiar with the word, though I'd probably never use it myself unless I was attempting to reproduce old-timey speech. I would guess that younger folks are less familiar with it, since I mainly got it from old books.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


As Brian Donovan notes in a comment, no appreciable difference in the prevalence of stripling can be found in British vs. American books according to the Google Books Ngram:

Google NGram comparing prevalence of 'stripling' in UK and US corpora

A search of COCA and COHA suggests that by the 1990s, stripling was found mainly in literature, but this is also true when searching the BNC. Of the six entries in the latter for the 1980s through 1993, four are from fiction, and two are ironic uses in newspapers.

For what it's worth, I'm American and know the word, but cannot recall ever using it myself; I don't perceive it as British, as say chap or lad, but it does sound affected, as say whippersnapper or youngster. That seems to align with Cambridge's usage note that stripling is old-fashioned or humorous.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.