al·​lo·​moth·​er ˈa-lə-ˌmə-t͟hər How to pronounce allomother (audio)
plural allomothers
: an individual other than the biological mother of an offspring that performs the functions of a mother (as by caring for an infant temporarily)
The allomother suckled the second infant for two and one-half minutes before it was retrieved by its own mother.Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, The Langurs of Abu: Female and Male Strategies of Reproduction, 1980
… by five months of age, babies spend more time with allomothers than with their own mother …Claudia R. Valeggia, in Substitute Parents: Biological and Social Perspectives on Alloparenting, 2009
allomother verb, transitive + intransitive
allomothers; allomothered; allomothering
… older sisters are readily available to allomother their younger siblings … Bernard Chapais, in Cooperation in Primates and Humans: Mechanisms and Evolution, 2006
Among elephants, allomothering practice did not appear to compensate for direct experience with an offspring. Phyllis C. Lee, Animal Behaviour, February 1987

Word History


allo- + mother entry 1

First Known Use

1980, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of allomother was in 1980

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Cite this Entry

“Allomother.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jul. 2024.

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