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an infant or very young child.
a newborn or very young animal.
the youngest member of a family, group, etc.
an immature or childish person.
a human fetus.

Sometimes Disparaging and Offensive. a girl or woman, especially an attractive one.
a person of whom one is deeply fond; sweetheart.
(sometimes initial capital letter) an affectionate or familiar address (sometimes offensive when used to strangers, casual acquaintances, subordinates, etc., especially by a male to a female).
a man or boy; chap; fellow:
He’s a tough baby to have to deal with.
an invention, creation, project, or the like that requires one’s special attention or expertise or of which one is especially proud.
an object; thing:
Is that car there your baby?

of or suitable for a baby:
baby clothes.
of or like a baby; infantile:
baby skin.
small; comparatively little:
a baby car.
treating babies:
a baby doctor.
to treat like a young child; pamper.
to handle or use with special care; treat gently.
Warren (“Baby”) 1898–1959, U.S. jazz drummer.
Contemporary Examples

But their first baby dies two hours after birth, while Joe is away, and Iseult savagely turns on him.
Must Read New Fiction: ‘Arcadia,’ ‘Men in Space,’ ‘The O’Briens,’ ‘Hot Pink’ Chloë Schama, Jacob Silverman, Wendy Smith, Daniel Roberts March 22, 2012

But what drew you to this strange character—a mentally ill woman caring for a baby doll?
Jessica Biel on ‘The Truth About Emanuel,’ Motherhood, Justin Timberlake, and More Marlow Stern January 6, 2014

“Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children,” he says.
The 13 Coolest Movie Dads: ‘Taken,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Die Hard,’ and More Marlow Stern June 14, 2014

As one “counselor” explained to me, “Once a women sees her baby, she will never have an abortion.”
The Loud Truth About Abortion Protesters Dean Obeidallah January 21, 2014

“I had to pull my pants down to get the baby out,” Uriguen says.
Idaho Woman Who Gave Birth on Highway: ‘I Had to Pull My Pants Down to Get the Baby Out’ Dale Eisinger July 9, 2014

Historical Examples

In the dark room she wanted to tear off her clothes to give the baby her nakedness.
The Narrow House Evelyn Scott

Dear baby, it promised its mother it wouldn’t drink wine for two months.
Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson

She expected to take the baby to the home where it belonged.
Little Jeanne of France Madeline Brandeis

I came to see, ma’am, whether you’d take me back, as I ‘aven’t got baby now.
Life and Death of Harriett Frean May Sinclair

But it would be awful if something happened and she got a baby already.
A Young Girl’s Diary An Anonymous Young Girl

noun (pl) -bies

a newborn or recently born child; infant
(as modifier): baby food

an unborn child; fetus
the youngest or smallest of a family or group

a newborn or recently born animal
(as modifier): baby rabbits

generally (derogatory) an immature person
(slang) a young woman or sweetheart: often used as a term of address expressing affection
a project of personal concern
be left holding the baby, to be left with the responsibility
throw the baby out with the bath water, to lose the essential element by indiscriminate rejection
(prenominal) comparatively small of its type: a baby car
verb (transitive) -bies, -bying, -bied
to treat with love and attention
to treat (someone) like a baby; pamper or overprotect

late 14c., babi, diminutive of baban (see babe + -y (3)). Meaning “childish adult person” is from c.1600. Meaning “youngest of a group” is from 1897. As a term of endearment for one’s lover it is attested perhaps as early as 1839, certainly by 1901; its popularity perhaps boosted by baby vamp “a popular girl,” student slang from c.1922. As an adjective, by 1750.

Baby food is from 1833. Baby blues for “blue eyes” recorded by 1892 (the phrase also was used for “postpartum depression” 1950s-60s). To empty the baby out with the bath (water) is first recorded 1909 in G.B. Shaw (cf. German das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten). Baby’s breath (noted for sweet smell, which also was supposed to attract cats) as a type of flower is from 1897. French bébé (19c.) is from English.

“to treat like a baby,” 1742, from baby (n.). Related: Babied; babying.

baby ba·by (bā’bē)
A very young child; an infant.


A wife, girlfriend, or other cherished woman; also, less frequently, a husband, boyfriend, or cherished man: My baby don’t love me no more (1900s+)
Any cherished or putatively cherished person •A shortening of earlier warm baby (1900s+)
A mean and dangerous man; tough guy •Babe, ”a tough; a rowdy; blackguard,” is attested in the 1860s: I did not want them babies to think they had me under contract (1930s+)
A term of address for a man or a woman; bud, mac, pal •In stereotype, much used by show-business people: And this is maximum security, baby (1910+)
Anything regarded with special affection, admiration, pride, or awe: Those babies’ll turn on a dime/ What we had heard was the firing of those big babies a mile and a half from shore (1900+)
A thing referred to, esp something one does not know the name of; gadget, sucker: What’s this baby over here supposed to do? (1930s+)

Related Terms

bottle baby
Department of Defense Dependent Schools
see: throw out the baby with the bath water


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