Just yesterday in chat someone intentionally misquoted Glen from Chucky, saying "dad." They then followed with:

It's technically Daddy but that seems a bit awkward.

Google ngrams shows usage of the word is at an all time high so, curious about the history of the usage they were talking about, I took a look at the OED. It seems like the current sexual usage might come from a combination of prison slang used from the 1930's:

Prison slang. A man who takes an active or dominant role in a homosexual relationship, esp. one who provides physical protection to a (typically younger) more vulnerable inmate.

And in the US from the 1910's:

U.S. (in early use chiefly in African-American usage). A woman's male lover; a husband. Frequently as a form of address.

However, these are only two of the many definitions--most of which are synonyms for "Dad." So why are these definitions dominating now? How did "Daddy" become synonymous with a sexual kink to the point where people go out of their way to avoid saying it lest it twist their quote?

  • 5
    Other than this bit of anecdotal evidence, what other support can you offer that in the minds of most native speakers “Daddy” primarily has a sexual connotation?
    – KarlG
    Sep 26 '18 at 14:18
  • 1
    @KarlG good point. I can show more anecdotal evidence from other friends, but given its taboo nature, I'm honestly not sure how to show definitively that this is a primary usage.
    – scohe001
    Sep 26 '18 at 14:22
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    I would submit that the demographic “people who avoid daddy because of a sexual connotation” is considerably smaller than “people in the American South who for generations have referred to their fathers as daddy even in adulthood.” This would hold even if many in the latter group know the term sugar daddy or that a daddy could be the older partner in a hetero- or homosexual relationship with an uncommonly large age difference. As for determining frequency, Google Books, esp. English fiction, might be a place to start, or various internet corpora.
    – KarlG
    Sep 26 '18 at 17:02
  • 2
    The answer is 'no', but it's hard to support any direction.
    – Mitch
    Sep 27 '18 at 16:38
  • 3
    In a survey of two-year-olds none thought the word had any sexual connotations....
    – Jim
    Apr 12 '19 at 15:58

Generally speaking, we determine which definition of a multiple-meaning word the speaker/writer meant by the context. This, of course, can be used for humour:

The town drunk got up off the park bench, stumbled down the street, and walked into a bar. "Ouch!" he said.

This is equally true of the word daddy. Yes, it can have sexual overtones. The Washington Post quotes the Random House Dictionary of American Slang saying that the notion of daddy meaning a pimp goes back to the late 1600s and in Blues songs going back to the early 1900s.

Esquire magazine makes the claim that "no one over the age of 12 is calling anyone "daddy" without a tinge of something else there," something I disagree with completely. (They also suggest that the pimp definition dates to 1821.) They go on to discuss various meanings as well as other forms of the word.

The website Whimn discusses "Why Some Women Love Calling Their Partner ‘Daddy’ In Bed" which basically comes down to feeling safe enough to give up control to someone else and enjoy being submissive in a consentual, trusting situation.

So, yes, there are many cases where the word Daddy has sexual overtones and, in our hypersexualized society, the media definitely uses that to boost ratings.

But there are also many who don't see things that way. Recently, a woman posted online saying that her ex-husband had told their kids (ages 10, 9, and 7.5) that they were too old to call him Daddy -- despite the ex still calling his own father Daddy. Reactions were mixed, of course, with some saying you're never too old to call your father daddy and others saying the opposite.

So, when I hear someone, especially a child call their father Daddy, there's nothing sexual there. If a woman calls her husband daddy, it might be sexual and it might not be. It really depends on the context.

As to why someone would avoid the use of Daddy, other than family culture (my parents were always Mom and Dad; I have no idea why), well, yes, there could be some confusion, but I don't think the notion of censoring oneself from using Daddy is all that common, especially among parents.

Is the primary usage of “Daddy” sexual now?

In some circles, yes, others, no. In general, I don't think so, unless context dictates otherwise.

Update: I polled my three kids this morning on the way to school and they all said they would use Dad. When I asked about alternative meanings for Daddy, my just-started-high-school, puberty-induced-dirty-minded daughter came up with the sexual connotations, though she admitted she didn't understand it (and thought it gross). So maybe the definition varies based on whether or not someone has gone through puberty?


In England Daddy is a normal word for father, particularly among very small children, and whilst it has largely been replaced by Dad, it lingers as the normal familiar word for father among older, perhaps middle-class people, although much ground has been lost to the almost ubiquitous Dad, perhaps as a result of a fear of sounding snooty or 'posh' in our classless times. I only ever called my father Daddy. He died in 2011 aged 82. My daughter often calls me Daddy, but my sons call me Dad.

The sexual overtones are news to me, and must surely be an entirely American thing, although they may be current in gay circles, albeit again imported from the US. They would not be familiar to most British people at all, in fact the idea is quite bizarre and distasteful - shocking even. People use the expression 'who's the Daddy?' in a mildly amusing way to ask who is top-dog, but I dare say 99.9% of British people would understand no sexual implication in it whatsoever, perhaps naively as it is an American import we clearly do not fully understand. In Britain Mummy is the exact female equivalent, retreating before Mum, but not perhaps retreating as markedly as Daddy. There are regional variations: Mam and Mammy in Wales and parts of the north, Mom and Mommy (for example in Staffordshire and east Shropshire, the area I come from).

  • Is that Mom and Mommy to rhyme with bomb and Tommy, or with come and dummy?
    – Rosie F
    May 17 '20 at 7:02
  • It is certainly an American thing, but can Britain be much behind in that usage?
    – user 66974
    May 17 '20 at 7:20
  • Not sure it's an American thing -- it's news to me, too. It may be just a rare thing. May 17 '20 at 11:25

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