Share this entry

Share this page

baby

Syllabification: ba·by
Pronunciation: /ˈbābē
 
/

Definition of baby in English:

noun (plural babies)

1A very young child, especially one newly or recently born: his wife’s just had a baby [as modifier]: a baby girl
More example sentences
  • The ultrasound probe is used mainly for head scanning of newborn babies and young children.
  • You know how to tell a boy baby from a girl baby without having to look at their genitalia?
  • The quadruplets, two boys and two girl babies, are also Niloufer Hospital's first.
Synonyms
infant, newborn, child, tot, little one
informal rug rat
Scottish bairn
papoose
technical neonate
1.1A young or newly born animal.
Example sentences
  • The goal in this case is to return a Neanderthal baby to his family.
1.2The youngest member of a family or group: Clara was the baby of the family
More example sentences
  • He was only 12 and the baby of the family as our other children have all grown up and left home.
  • Thérèse had been the adored baby of her family, instructed every day by two elder sisters who proceeded her into the Carmelite convent in Lisieux.
  • The Range Rover badge carries with it a lot of prestige and, while this is the baby of the family, it's still more desirable than anything from Japan.
1.3A timid or childish person: “Don’t be such a baby!” she said witheringly
More example sentences
  • Stop being such a baby.
  • Maybe I shouldn't be such a baby about things, but I am upset with my doctor's office right now.
Synonyms
1.4 (one's baby) informal One’s particular responsibility, achievement, or concern: “This is your baby, Gerry,” she said, handing him the brief
More example sentences
  • I believe it's your baby now but please do some more research.
  • It's my baby so I don't really have any time for any other bands.
  • Granted, it's his baby, and he can do what he wants with it, but he introduced it as an action/adventure entertainment show.
2 informal A young woman or a person with whom one is having a romantic relationship (often as a form of address): my baby left me for another guy baby, don’t cry!
More example sentences
  • She was such a bright, vivacious person, my angel, my star, my baby.
  • As for telling us to grow up and grow some hair, I'd love to, baby, I really would.
  • I do love you baby.
2.1A thing regarded with affection or familiarity: this baby can reach speeds of 140 mph
More example sentences
  • This is the only way you can purchase this baby at a discounted price.
  • That's not his everyday car, it's his baby.
  • I personally would not do it, simply because my laptop is my baby.

adjective

[attributive] Back to top  
1Comparatively small or immature of its kind: a baby grand piano
More example sentences
  • Not the display case where you can buy fake nose rings and baby tees and mini glowsticks to roll around on your tongue.
  • The shirt was a pink baby tee with a tiny pocket on the right side of my chest.
  • Looking for a used grand or baby grand piano?
Synonyms
informal teeny, teeny-weeny, teensy, teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy, itty-bitty, little-bitty, bite-sized
1.1(Of vegetables) picked before reaching their usual size: baby carrots
More example sentences
  • Courgettes are actually baby marrows, just picked earlier from the plant.
  • Any vegetable producer tan package baby carrots or cut-up celery in individual portions.
  • If you want to be veggie, go for the selection of baby vegetables with garlic flavoured tomato concentrate.

verb (babies, babying, babied)

[with object] Back to top  
Treat (someone) as a baby; pamper or be overprotective toward: her aunt babied her and fussed over her clothes
More example sentences
  • So I've been babying her and giving her extra treats and stuff.
  • He accused her of babying him up, and treating him too nicely.
  • She becomes bold and refuses the will of her husband, and she repudiates babying her children.
Synonyms

Origin

late Middle English: probably imitative of an infant's first attempts at speech.

More
  • Both baby and babe probably come from the way that the sound ba is repeated by very young children. Babble (Middle English) probably came from the same source, along with words such as mama (mid 16th century) and papa (late 17th century). Similar forms are found in many different languages. A person's lover or spouse has been their baby since the middle of the 19th century. The sense ‘someone's creation or special concern’ dates from later in that century—in 1890 artificial silk was referred to as its inventor's ‘new-born baby’. The proverb don't throw the baby out with the bathwater is from German. The first known appearance in English is from the Scottish historian and political philosopher Thomas Carlyle ( 1795–1881), who wrote in 1853 that ‘The Germans say, “You must empty out the bathing-tub, but not the baby along with it”.’ Babe originally just meant ‘child’, and only later became restricted to a child too young to walk. Inexperienced people in a situation calling for experience are babes in the wood, from characters in an old ballad The Children in the Wood, whose wicked uncle wanted to steal their inheritance and abandoned them in a wood. The proverbial phrase out of the mouths of babes is used when a precocious child says something unexpectedly appropriate. It has biblical origins, being found in Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew. A babe today is generally an attractive young person. The first babes were men. In the 1870s the youngest member of a class of US military cadets was called the babe, rather like ‘the baby of the family’. The term was then used as a friendly form of address between men before it came to mean a sexy girl. See also bimbo

Phrases

throw the baby out with the bathwater

1
Discard something valuable along with other things that are inessential or undesirable.
Example sentences
  • I feel I'm relatively representative of Canadians and I don't want the Conservatives throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
  • In this case, I don't see how you could ‘close the loophole’ without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
  • No right-thinking person wants to downplay this problem or its implications, but we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Derivatives

babyhood

1
Pronunciation: /-ˌho͝od/
noun
Example sentences
  • A boy's first haircut is an event, a non-biological marker of movement from babyhood into childhood.
  • The strange thing is, I don't really remember any of my children's babyhoods, but I remember her.
  • I have long since given up cigarettes again, apart from a very occasional rollie, but I still miss standing outside on the cold moonlit nights, or maybe I miss my son's babyhood.

Words that rhyme with baby

Achebe, maybe

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day tenebrous
Pronunciation: ˈtɛnɪbrəs
adjective
dark; shadowy or obscure