in·​fan·​til·​ize in-ˈfan-tə-ˌlīz How to pronounce infantilize (audio)
-fən-ˌtī-ˌlīz How to pronounce infantilize (audio)
infantilized; infantilizing

transitive verb

: to make or keep infantile
: to treat as if infantile
ˌin-fən-ˌtī-lə-ˈzā-shən How to pronounce infantilize (audio)

Did you know?

Infantilize is just a baby, linguistically speaking. It wasn’t until several decades into the 20th century that social scientists started using the term to discuss the ways in which treating humans as helpless can prolong or encourage their dependency on others. The adjective infantile, which gave birth to infantilize, is far more mature: it dates to the 17th century. (Infant dates to the 14th century and comes ultimately from a Latin word meaning “incapable of speech; young.”) Infantile sometimes literally means “relating to infants”—that is, to children in the first year of life—but it is also applied more broadly. If you chide someone for their infantile behavior, for example, you rebuke the person for acting immaturely or childishly; to chide someone for infantilizing behavior, on the other hand, is to rebuke them for acting as if others are not as mature or independent as they are.

Examples of infantilize in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Both are fussed over by family members with a tendency to infantilize them. Peter Debruge, Variety, 8 Sep. 2023 But that's simultaneously infantilizing adult audiences and leaving kids out. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 19 Apr. 2023 In the absence of hard numbers, RTO demands can look like overbearing and infantilizing attempts to micromanage employees who are already performing well. Simon Willis, Fortune, 5 Apr. 2023 Nina’s ceaseless obsession with perfection is exacerbated by her infantilizing mother and domineering director, sending her spiraling into crippling paranoia. Men's Health, 17 Mar. 2023 One need not infantilize mothers to acknowledge that strong societal forces can impair their moral vision, particularly for the very young and vulnerable. Bethel McGrew, National Review, 27 Jan. 2022 Jokes aside, fans have interpreted this lyric as a critique of predatory men who infantilize women. Alyssa Bailey, ELLE, 20 Oct. 2022 These kitschy activities infantilize what ought to be a rigorous pursuit of professional competency. Daniel Buck, WSJ, 19 Aug. 2022 The church also tends to misunderstand, infantilize and even demonize those who question. The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'infantilize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1931, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of infantilize was in 1931


Dictionary Entries Near infantilize

Cite this Entry

“Infantilize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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