10 Words for Other People's Children

On spoiled brats, ankle biters, and other holy terrors
words for other peoples kids enfant terrible yelling photo

Definition - a child whose inopportune remarks cause embarrassment

The first thing you should know about enfant terrible is how to pluralize it, since these beasties often travel in packs: it is enfants terribles. The word has other, non-childish meanings, including “a person known for shocking remarks or outrageous behavior,” and “a usually young and successful person who is strikingly unorthodox, innovative, or avant-garde.” These came about in the early 20th century; the oldest sense (your brother/sister’s spawn) dates back to the middle of the 19th century. Enfant terrible was taken directly from the French, in which language the literal meaning is “terrifying child.”

Soon after, a lawyer approaches her parents Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) for a sample of Wednesday's DNA. The advocate claims the enfant terrible was switched in the maternity ward with another child.
— Damon Smith, Lincolnshire Echo (Lincoln, Eng.), 14 Oct. 2021

words for other peoples kids killcrop girl with fork and knife

Definition - an ill-mannered annoying child

There are a number of different brats in the English language: a sausage, a child, an article of clothing (such as a cloak), and several others besides. The “annoying child” sense is thought to be related to the “article of clothing sense,” while the “sausage” meaning (a shortening of bratwurst is distinct from these. Should you have need of specifically referring to a small annoying child, the word bratling is defined as “a little brat.”

Low-cost airline Ryanair's March 31 press release that promised to introduce "child free" flights from October 2011 was presumed to be an April Fool's joke, although it gained traction online. One comment on USA Today's website read, "All airlines should offer child-free flights. If you have ever flown for six hours with some brat kicking the back of your seat the whole way, then you would agree.”
— -Asia News Monitor_ (Bangkok, Th.), 4 Apr. 2023

other peoples kids mammothrept spoiled kid

Definition - a spoiled child

This useful word comes from the Greek mammothreptos (“child brought up by his grandmother”). In spite of the ubiquity of spoiled children this word never really caught on, with few instances of use outside of the 17th century.

”You impudent mammothrept,” she cried. Disabled but with exposure No. 1 in his possession the photographer retreated, not knowing what he had been called, but fearing the worst.
Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug. 1916

MORE: 22 Charming Words for Nasty People

words for other peoples kids holy terror photo

Definition - a child who behaves very badly

The words holy and terror have certainly been used in conjunction with each other many times over the centuries, thanks to various ecclesiastical conflagrations. However, we’ve not included any of these uses in the dictionary, as they tended to not be fixed phrases, but instead are just instances of someone using the one word to modify the other. The Inquisition and the Crusades may have failed to combine these words to significant enough degree that they merit a dictionary entry, but spoiled children have succeeded in this regard.

It's a messy film, which doesn't help Repeta's performance. The script wants him to be a holy terror one moment, a budding artist the next, sensitive and unselfconscious and sometimes unaware that he's being a monumental jerk. It's a tall order for anyone, and the young actor does the best he can with it.
— Chris Knight, National Post (Toronto, Can.), 4 Nov. 2022

words for other peoples kids ankle biter little babies

Definition - a young child

Ankle biter frequently refers to a child, but also carries the meaning of “a small, aggressive dog.” The “child” meaning is older, dating in use back to the first half of the 19th century; the “dog” sense doesn’t come up for another hundred years or so.

Travel is always a game of hurry up and wait, particularly when flying. This means you, your ankle-biters, sullen teens, cranky parents, enthusiastic spouses, and any other humans you're traveling with will be bored after about five minutes of looking at overpriced cans of Pringles and bottles of designer perfume at duty-free.
Boston Globe, 26 Feb. 2023

words for other peoples kids whelp baby and dog

Dictionary - a young boy or girl

At first glance whelp appears to be a somewhat more generous description of a child than some of the others on this list, and there is nothing overtly critical in its definition. However, it is one of those words (such as spawn) which, while they may accurately refer to a person’s offspring, will not be welcomed by most of the parents you meet at a playground, should you apply them to their children. Before it was used to refer to human children, whelp meant “any of the young of various carnivorous mammals and especially of the dog” (and still has this meaning), and also functions as a verb, with meanings such as “to bring forth young“ and “to give birth to — used of various carnivores and especially the dog.”

My nearest brother actually was eight years older than me and had set a perfect example of how to "build character" in a young whelp. It's amazing what a kid will put up with to run with the big dogs.
— John C. Lorson, Daily Record (Wooster, OH), 25 Oct. 2015

words for other peoples kids jd juvenile delinquent huck finn

Definition - juvenile delinquent

JD (which can also mean “justice department,” or refer to a doctor of law degree) is an abbreviation of juvenile delinquent. The longer form has been in use since the early 19th century; the abbreviation does not become common until the 20th.

Upon which a further scrutiny took place, and it appeared that the juvenile delinquent some time ago had actually stabbed one of his play fellows for as trifling a cause, with a pen knife.
The Morning Post (London, Eng.), 15 Oct. 1803

”If we had a center we could eliminate a lot of JDs running around the street,” Ferraro said. “Children would have a place to meet and wholesome activities in which to participate.”
The Jersey Journal (Jersey City, NJ), 15 Sept. 1959

odd little boy sticking his tongue out at the camera

Definition - a troublesome or mischievous person

Strictly speaking, a hellion does not have to be a young person, although you are unlikely to find anyone described as an old hellion. The word is probably an alteration (influenced by the word hell) of hallion (which is another word for scamp or an impish or playful young person).

An unconventional heroine with an effervescent approach to life and a worthy hero work to keep their feelings at bay in a story enhanced by two young hellions and an especially spiteful villain.
— Kristin Ramsdell, Library Journal, Feb. 2019

words for other peoples kids killcrop baby eating cake

Definition - a voracious infant

Killcrop came into English in the 17th century, from the Low German kīlkrop, and for most of its time in our language has not been used to simply describe a hungry baby. The killcrop was thought to be a fairy changeling, a small demon substituted for a real baby, which would eat endlessly.

It is on record that, being once called in to see a little weazened child with an enormous appetite, that was never the fatter for all its food, he declared it had a devil—was, in fact, that sort of thing called, in Germany, a kill-crop.
The Daily Kansas Tribune (Lawrence, KS), 7 Mar. 1869

evil looking girl cuts her brothers hair

Definition - a person who is dishonest, evil, or unprincipled by nature : an innately bad person

Bad seed is another word that does have to be used in reference to a young person; after all, our definition simply informs that an innately bad person. However, bad seed was popularized after it was used as the title of a book by William March in 1954 (later made into a play and also a movie); in these uses it refers to an eight-year old girl who it utterly devoid of scruples or conscience.

If we can forgive a fox for telling a lie, what about a chickadee for breaking and entering? This is the alleged crime at the heart of Monica Silvies Chickadee: Criminal Mastermind. The perpetrator in question, a tiny black-capped bird (I wear a mask), is a bad seed. Or so he thinks.
— Jon Agee, The New York Times Book Review, 17 Jul. 2022


These words have definitely been around longer than the people they describe.