I am writing definitions for some terms used in a requirements document. One of the definitions is as follows:

Child account: User account that is created by the account in consideration.

For some requirements I want to define the notion of a descendent account. By that I mean basically the transitive version of a child account.

So far, I'm not getting much further than "child account of a child account", but that does not capture the transitive aspect of the relation.

  • "child account of a child account" = "grandchild account" ? – Brendan W. Sullivan May 2 '19 at 13:19
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    Maybe move away from the Parent / Child account description and move toward more of a taxonomy. For example: in place of a Parent account have a First Level Account, the First Level Account can have Second Level Accounts. The First and Second Level Accounts can create Third Level Accounts - you would have to define your rules, this is an example. This would free you from the family hierarchy model. – David D May 2 '19 at 14:35
  • Note what you're asking, but "created by the account in consideration" makes me ask "in consideration of what?", in the sense of "created by the account because of XYZ". – TrevorD May 2 '19 at 15:01
  • I'd recommend changing the title of the question. This isn't about transitivity, it's about hierarchy and structure. – Phil Sweet May 3 '19 at 21:01
  • @PhilSweet I'm not sure how to phrase it, what do you suggest? The relation "being a descendent of" is transitive though – Nimo Beeren May 3 '19 at 21:39

A descendant of an element is any element that is on a path of child. The important word here, which inherently captures the concept of transitive closure, is 'path'.

This can be defined recursively, meaning the definition of the word involves the use of the word itself in the definition, as:

A descendant is a child or the descendant of a child.

For any two elements, one can establish whether one is a descendant of the other by checking the children (the first part of the definition) or by checking the descendants of those children.

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  • This solution is the most elegant to me. I would append "of the account in consideration" to your definition, that made it clearer in my mind (though not strictily necessary since the definition of child account already inlcudes this part). – Nimo Beeren May 3 '19 at 22:04

Since this is tagged "mathematics", the definition can use the word recursive. In the terminology of family relations, multiple generations describes transitivity. To be precise, the definition of 'descendant' may clarify if it inclues 'direct child'.
OK, now a short definition:

Descendent account: either a direct or a recursive child account of the account in consideration.

Depending on the targeted audience, a more verbose explanation, even including 'child of child...', may be appropriate.

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  • Although this doesn't fully answer my question (how to define the term descendent account), I like the idea of using the word recursive since I feel the concept requires some mathematics to define it well. – Nimo Beeren May 3 '19 at 14:33

Similar answer to lly, with an example or two.

I suggest "nested subaccounts" as in the examples below.


Nested sub-accounts are organized under sub-accounts.

The following graphic shows a possible organization with the master account (level 0), two sub-accounts (level 1) and several nested sub-accounts (levels 2 to 4).

Themes are inherited from the account level, so that you can have a master theme, and then a subaccount theme that works along with the master theme that is loaded from the account level.


I was hoping that cascading inheritance functionality was in place for nested subaccounts as well; meaning that a subaccount would inherit the theme from the account level, but then also its parent subaccount, and then its own theme.

A subset of the structure I'm working with looks like this...

. University (main account)

. Zone (Online, Media Media, Organizations, etc)

. School

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  • I like the use of the word "nested" here, it is intuitive to me as a programmer. It seems like one of the easier ways to explain the concept to a less technical person – Nimo Beeren May 3 '19 at 21:48

A standard way of handling the hierarchy—but not family (you already know that would be a "descendant")—would be to use the prefix sub-, one of whose senses is:

subordinate, subsidiary, secondary

In your case, you could refer to "sub-children accounts" or simply "further subaccounts".

As @David_D already mentioned above, you could also use numerals with words like "level", "tier", "order" if there was a need to specify certain sublevels precisely.

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