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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.
Historical Examples

It was the sternest school of self-reliance, from babyhood to the grave, that human society is ever likely to witness.
The American Mind Bliss Perry

This region is new; so new that it may be said to be still in its babyhood.
Life On The Mississippi, Complete Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Miss Patricia was usually antagonistic to all male persons safely past their babyhood.
The Campfire Girls on the Field of Honor Margaret Vandercook

And this father of hers—that she had revered from babyhood—was a forger!
A Black Adonis Linn Boyd Porter

The windmiller took more notice of him than he had been wont to do of his own children in their babyhood.
Jan of the Windmill Juliana Horatia Ewing

Good-night, friend of my babyhood, my girlhood, my womanhood.
Letters of a Dakota Divorcee Jane Burr

There were moving pictures of her; pictures of her in her babyhood, her girlhood, in old-fashioned costumes and poses.
What Will People Say? Rupert Hughes

From the boy’s babyhood the father had realized it with fear in his heart.
The Promise James B. Hendryx

Ann had been the deus ex machina of the house since Christa’s babyhood.
The Zeit-Geist Lily Dougall

She had been accustomed to it from her babyhood, and was as fearless as any of her brothers.
The New Girl at St. Chad’s Angela Brazil

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
see: throw out the baby with the bath water


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