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According to Wikipedia, a nobleman and a noblewoman have issues while non-nobles have children, so what's the difference? I'm not a native speaker of English, but in my poor understanding, I assume that if a couple has a child as their issue, it means the offspring is some kind of document. Also, if Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have Prince Charles as their issue, is it correct to say the couple issued Prince Charles?

Nicholas II of Russia (Wikipedia):

Issue:
Grand Duchess Olga
Grand Duchess Tatiana
Grand Duchess Maria
Grand Duchess Anastasia
Tsesarevich Alexei

Henry VIII (Wikipedia):

Issue:
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
Mary I, Queen of England
Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset (ill.)
Elizabeth I, Queen of England
Edward VI, King of England

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  • 3
    You should include the link to the Wikipedia article. Dec 16, 2021 at 6:46
  • 3
    Note, however, that Wikipedia itself has issues, and that you have misspelled kid, which in that case is KIID.
    – Xanne
    Dec 16, 2021 at 7:42
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    Issue in this context does not mean the same as 'an issue of a magazine'! It's just a formal way of referring to descendants. Dec 16, 2021 at 8:47
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    And (obviously) if a magazine does a piece about a falling out among royal siblings, just ask for the issue issue issue at any kiosk (be sure to say thank you, thank you, thank you.)
    – DjinTonic
    Dec 16, 2021 at 21:34
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    Also the entire family of children is the issue of the marriage or the person being discussed. If a person has multiple children they are not the issues of that person they are, collectively, the issue.
    – BoldBen
    Dec 17, 2021 at 1:18

4 Answers 4

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Such people occupy a formal position in society. Some or all of their children are their issue. issues are something else, such as problems or difficulties with finance, personal relationships, emotions, attitudes and other aspects of life.

Legal Dictionary

issue:

a person's children or other lineal descendants such as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It does not mean all heirs, but only the direct bloodline. Occasionally, there is a problem in determining whether a writer of a will or deed meant issue to include descendants beyond his or her immediate children. While a child or children are alive, issue refers only to them, but if they are deceased then it will apply to the next living generation unless there is language in the document which shows it specifically does not apply to them.

The Cambridge dictionary, curiously, omits this meaning but it is relevant that it offers

Cambridge

issue:

To produce or provide something official

Likewise, the children of nobility may be seen as something produced to fill official positions presently occupied by their parents. However, although Prince Charles is the issue of his parents, I have never met the idea that they issued him; it is not used in that way; it makes him sound like a radio announcement or a banknote, which he clearly is not!

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    All a couple's children are their 'issue' in formal genealogical language. Dec 16, 2021 at 10:41
  • @jsw29 indeed, but the question asked about noblemen and noblewomen, so my mention of “such people” refers to them. I suggest that the concept of nobility rests on formal positions in society. My prose therefore refers to the nobility although the dictionary definitions I give make clear the wider use of “issue”, as you helpfully emphasise.
    – Anton
    Dec 16, 2021 at 23:43
  • @KateBunting Even the ones that have been disinherited?
    – nick012000
    Dec 17, 2021 at 1:18
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No matter how many children they have, they have "issue" NOT "issues". And the difference between "issue" and "children" is one of formality, not rank. A lawyer drawing up a will for a commoner would likely use "issue".

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    – Community Bot
    Dec 16, 2021 at 13:28
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In British and Australian English as it pertains to the law, children and issue have distinctly different meanings.

Issue is a technical legal term meaning all of a person’s lineal descendants. Children are the direct descendants of their parents. Children are some but not all of a person or couple's issue.

Issue is used as both singular and plural.

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The are three differences between children and issue, in the sense that is relevant here (obviously, the latter word also has other senses).

(1) Issue is a broader term: it encompasses all the lineal descendants of a person, including the person's children, but also grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.

(2) Issue is, grammatically, a mass term. While one can say that somebody has five children, it is not normally said that somebody has five issues (if one insisted on using issue to convey that idea, one would have to say that the person's issue consists of five children).

(3) As a matter of style, issue is used only when discussing genealogy and the legal matters that concern succession and inheritance. It is likely to be understood only by those who have greater than average interest in such topics. Attempting to use it in any other context will result in puzzled looks, and quite often will simply not be understood.

In these limited contexts, issue is used in both American and British English.

Contrary to what the OP assumes and what one of the other answers implies, the meaning of issue has nothing to do with the position that those involved have in the society. In the relevant contexts, anybody's descendants can be, and are, referred to as the person's issue, regardless of the person's social status (although, obviously, if a person was rich or had a nobility title, more may depend on who that person's issue is, ).

To answer the other part of the OP's question, even in the contexts in which the use of issue is appropriate, it would be unusual to use it as a verb, and say that the parents issued their child. If somebody said that, it would be understood (by those who are familiar with issue as a noun, in the relevant sense), but perceived as odd. This is similar to the fact that, even though offspring is widely used as a noun, it would be odd to say that somebody sprung off his parents.

(This answer incorporates some of the points that have already been made by other contributors to this page, but attempts to consolidate them, and disentangle them from the remarks that may mislead the future visitors to this page.)

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