Why can the phrase "your folks" be used to refer to "your parents"? What is the origin of this usage?

  • My husband always uses folks when he's referring to his parents.I have always used parents. We both grew up in Maine - he in a small city, I - in a small town, both in the same County. His mother grew up on a farm in a rural area, different County, in Maine. She always said folks, too.
    – Susan
    Apr 24, 2017 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest citation for folks meaning ‘the people of one's family, parents, children, relatives’ is dated 1715. It’s an example of semantic narrowing in which a word used to describe a general category takes on a specific meaning.

  • Like Germanic Tier ('animal') being narrowed to deer in Modern English. Jul 11, 2012 at 20:27
  • And people, with the same meaning, is even older: the OED has a (probable) citation from 1474 Jul 11, 2012 at 20:28

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