For full context: I'm looking to categorize adults succinctly into binary categories: those with children, and those without

So we could say there are two buckets of Adults here: "Childless" and ... "Childfilled"?

Antonyms of "Childless" appear to just be fruitful, fertile, or around the ability to have a child

I know an option would be to say that there are two buckets of Adults: "Those with Children" and "Those without Children", but it's too wordy for the system that we are trying to build

Similarly, it could be that there are two buckets of adults: "Parents", and "Childless", but we found that to be too confusing to read. "Parents" is a noun while "Childless" is an adjective. Ideally, we are looking for two adjectives.


8 Answers 8

  1. Nonparent = someone who is not a parent, i.e. without children
  2. Parent = someone who is a parent, i.e. with children.

• a person who is not a parent
Collins Dictionary


Not as general as "childless", but there's an adjective specifically describing someone who has given birth: "parous".

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    I'm not sure I'd recommend using a word that is technically correct but will have most native english speakers needing to look up the word to understand what's being said. Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 13:12
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    Parity/parous/nulliparous/multiparous are medical words. I have never, ever heard it outside of obstetrical situations between doctors or nurses; it's not even used with patients. They would think one was saying Paris. Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 18:50
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    @anongoodnurse and it is only applicable to women who gave birth. A woman might be multiparous and not a parent, or nulliparous and a parent - and of course then there are all the male parents who are nulliparous.
    – Narusan
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 19:50
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    @anongoodnurse you don't have to like parous as an answer to this question, but as for me… I love parous. I love parous in the winter, when it drizzles; I love parous in the summer, when it sizzles; I love parous every moment…
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 20:50
  • @msh210 - Fair enough. I don't like it. As for Paris, it's lovely, but smells like a urinal. Men take a leak everywhere; you have to watch where you're walking. It's gross, and makes Paris much less magical than it should be. Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 0:32

Not a single word, but in practical use, a good alternative would be with children/without children.


Most adjectives that end in -less are opposed to adjectives that end in -ful (not -filled). This isn't quite productive, but "Childful", when opposed to "Childless", would get the point across. Of course, if this is for an official document, or an official-adjacent document, then "parent" and "nonparent" suggested by Mari-Lou A would be a better choice.

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    Childful would sound very weird to my native ear; I would assume that anyone using it is unfamiliar with English. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 8:39
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    @JackAidley Like I said, not quite productive, and it's far from serious
    – No Name
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 8:47
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    An ogre can be child-full after a good meal.
    – Stef
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 13:43
  • appreciate the answer @NoName, I get what you mean, and it's interesting to callout the suffix -less vs -ful (as you saw i took a stab myself)
    – A O
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 21:59
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    If this word existed, I'd assume it meant someone with lots of children, i.e. it wouldn't apply to someone with just 1 or 2, making it not quite an opposite to "childless". Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 17:45

I think the antonym of childless is Fecund.

This describes the state of having produced offspring and I believe it applies equally to male parents as well as female.

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    Hi Nick. It looks like the OP is not looking for words about fertility, so this doesn't really answer the question. Otherwise this is well formatted with a citation and explanation, and for that much I'm inclined to upvote lately...I hope you stick around to explore other questions. Welcome to EL&U!
    – livresque
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 0:38
  • As stated in my answer, "having produced offspring" is subtly different to fertile (which describes potential), and this is bourne out by the link provided. The problem I see is that Fecundity is unaffected when the children mature. As others have noted it is unclear what is asked for in Q, so I wanted to contribute this as A. distinct from fertile.
    – Zeta
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 0:51
  • Fecund means the capability to have children/offspring, not that one has actually had them. Can you explain how this is different from fertile? Per Cambridge fecund meaning: able to produce a lot of crops, fruit, babies, young animals, etc
    – livresque
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 4:05
  • I stand by my statements above. I have included a link to a dictionary that supports this position. If you make a statement to the contrary, then you presumably use the word fecund when you mean fertile, or never use it because you already have the word fertile, and then you bemoan the lack of a word for actually having offspring. Well the word we need here is Fecund. Remember that dictionaries often document the usage of a word. If you say all possible words mean fertile , there won't be any left to mean anything else. Do you argue with Webster's?
    – Zeta
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 22:47

I suggest "number of dependents" as an alternative. Zero or non-zero dependents. If you really want it binary, then the column header is "Dependents" and the binary value would be "Yes" (1 or True) or "No" (0 or False).

Yes, it's giving you a number when you've asked for a binary classification, however I'd say that it resolves some ambiguity in your data gathering that might be useful. Children grow into adults but they'll always be "children" to their parents. If you are interested in the continuation of a bloodline, then "children" is maybe the better word. But if you are looking for children younglings(?) then dependents might be the better choice. And you could just offer options for zero or non-zero. It encompasses parents/guardians/foster carers/grandparents/nieces and (possibly) even elderly dependents (so you might need to make it "dependents under 18" or whatever the accepted adult age is in your application if that is what you actually want).

Dictionary.com offers this as an example:

She listed two dependents on her income-tax form.

Anecdotally, I've seen it on forms as "Number of dependents".

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    "Number of dependents" or "number of children" would also make sense in the sysadmin context OP is using this for (its in the comments), and arguably more sense since it's valuable information, and functions exist to ignore the specific number in favor of the binary yes/no distinction - or even to shift the yes/no to a higher number
    – No Name
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 22:30
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    In other words, have an upvote
    – No Name
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 22:31
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    Number of dependents and whether a person has children are separate questions. For example, someone with grown children who have left home may have several children but zero dependents.
    – nasch
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 22:09

Parent and Nonparent is a false dichotomy. What do people respond when:

  • all their children are grown and fully independent
  • their only child was stillborn
  • had a child but it died at a young age
  • are currently fostering a child and hope to adopt them
  • are currently fostering long-term but have no plans to adopt
  • are currently fostering a child but expect to only provide respite (temporary care days to weeks)
  • are not currently fostering but have fostered in the past and are still a registered foster parent
  • have adopted a child but have no biological children
  • have a living adopted child and a biological child that died at a young age
  • are married to a person with biological children but have none of their own
  • are living with a person with biological children but have none of their own
  • are seriously dating (planning to move in/marry) a person with children
  • does it matter if adopted/foster children are from a same-sex relationship?
  • had a child with a previous spouse but currently have no custody
  • had a child with a previous spouse but currently have supervised custody
  • had a child with a previous spouse but currently have <50% joint custody
  • have a disabled relative that they provide >50% support for
  • have a disabled relative that lives with them but pays them rent
  • have a disabled relative that pays rent but still needs additional support when medical bills pile up

Are you a parent? [ ]Yes [ ]No -- far too many edge cases

Have you ever impregnated a woman or been pregnant? -- too personal

Did you claim any dependents on your last tax return? -- probably the best you can do

After reading the comment: "haha yes I agree in a form this wouldn't work. the full context is that I am designing a system for organizing parts in a supply chain, for a physical product. There are a ton of people involved who do not need to understand technical jargon, so I was looking for the best term to categorize Parts that have subcomponents, and Parts that do not. Right now a request we see is "can I see all of the basic parts", but "basic" is too subjective. That's why we were looking for something like "nonparent" or "childless" parts to accurately reflect what is being asked for"

Since you are actually looking for a word to describe parts in a supply chain that have no child parts, a technical option would be "leaf". leaf parts are parts on the family tree that have no further branches. It comes from computer science data structures, but the idea is that leaves are the part of the branch that doesn't produce any further branches.

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    In your enthusiasm to analyse the various circumstances of parenthood or not you omit to refer to meanings of “parent”. You then go on to a generalisation (branches, leaves) drawn from mathematics and computing that, while formally defensible, leads you to a conclusion that is incomprehensible in normal usage. Consider the exchange: “Are you a parent?” “No, I am a leaf.” Who would understand such nonsense?
    – Anton
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 7:27
  • After I wrote that, I found a hidden comment on the OP that mentioned he was talking about parts in a supply chain, not humans. I left the human part for future googlers, and added the final paragraph as a technical solution to his somewhat technical underlying question. In that context, "Does this part have any children?" "No, it's a leaf." does make sense. Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 2:21
  • interesting. The question clearly talks of adults and children, so hidden comment is rather confusing, and reduces the whole matter to opinion. I have therefore also voted to close it.
    – Anton
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 22:30

It's not clear whether the distinction being sought is whether or not the person has childcare responsibilities. A "parent" may be a parent of adult children and they may live on a different continent. Note "grandparent". Conversely, one may have responsibility for some relative's children in loco parentis without having adopted them.

Maybe "with childcare responsibilities", and "without ..." would be best?

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