OK, this one is boring, but it's the most basic, so a good place to start. Also, its history is a little surprising: when pregnant first entered the language over 600 years ago it carried a now-archaic meaning of "cogent, convincing." It didn't take long, though, for the English word to take on the meaning of its Latin root, praegnans: "carrying a fetus." These days that's the main meaning of pregnant in English, and it's the main word that is called on to describe a person (or animal) with a bun in the oven. The word still carries other meanings, the most common of which is "rich in significance or implication," as in "a pregnant pause." We note that pregnant pauses don't deserve the sympathy due to those suffering swollen ankles and sleepless nights.
8 Words For When You've Got a Baby Bump
This synonym of pregnant makes it sound like there's a big party at the end of it all rather than hours of excruciating, uh, discomfort. When expectant came into the language in the 14th century, it was with a general "characterized by expectation; waiting" kind of meaning. It didn't describe the particularly expectant person who is anticipating giving birth sometime soon until the early 19th century. Expectant can describe either parent, but it's especially used of the one who might also be expecting some unpleasant bouts of heartburn and maybe a charley horse or two. (Sorry!)
Expecting is used in the same way, but it lags significantly behind expectant, and we don't expect that to change.
Caught doesn't have the most charming ring to modern ears, but it had its time—mostly in the fast-receding past, and especially in the passive voice in phrases like "was caught" or "got caught." Queen Victoria was caught nine times between 1839 and 1857, and the earliest known use of this sense of caught is found in a letter she wrote to her daughter:
Think of me who at that first time, very unreasonable, and perfectly furious as I was to be caught, having to have drawing rooms and levees and made to sit down—and to be stared at and take every sort of precaution.
Poor Vicky: the levees of which she writes are not the kind to which you drive your Chevy with the good old boys. We wish we could have taken her out for a mocktail and cheered her up a bit.
Let's face it: pregnancy can leave a person feeling a little less than elegant. This synonym of pregnant is just what the midwife ordered: enceinte is French in origin, and retains its French pronunciation in English, making it sound très sophisticated. (Click here play for some audio coaching.)
Enceinte is thought to descend from the Latin incient- or inciens, meaning "being with young," and earliest known evidence of it in English use dates to the early 17th century, making it a century older than the unrelated noun enceinte, which refers to a line of fortification enclosing a castle or town, as well as to the enclosed area itself. That word is also Latin in origin, coming from in- and cingere, meaning "to gird or encircle," which frankly sounds like a sly allusion to matters involving the abdomen as well.
We recommend trying this word for "pregnant" out in several accents to determine which feels most appropriate. If you want to go for historical accuracy, try British and several centuries ago. Childing dates back to Middle English (English as it was used between the 12th and 15th centuries), and it's sure to catch modern listeners completely off guard, which makes it just the word to bring out when someone makes an unwelcome remark about your pregnant personage. We mostly have evidence of it modifying the word "woman," but we think the phrase "one childing badass" as a self-descriptor could be quite effective.
In addition to meaning "pregnant," childing can also mean "productive, fruitful." It can also describe flowers producing younger or smaller blossoms around an older blossom, which is a kind of floral maternal badassery.
This synonym of pregnant is appropriate especially when it feels like gravity has taken on new and specifically perinatal meaning. Like the word gravity, gravid comes from the Latin word gravis, meaning "heavy."
While adjusting to newly acquired weightiness can make even walking down the hallway a bit complicated, we note that what is weighty also has significance: this fact is reflected in the original meanings of gravity, which are "dignity of bearing," "importance," and "significance." Gravid can also imply a fullness of import, which we think is appropriate.
Wasn't there a movie? Yes, in 2007. The movie is a comedy, and this (by some accounts vulgar) synonym of pregnant is best used for the same effect and only by the pregnant person herself. Green's Dictionary of Slang traces the use of knocked up to the mid-19th century, when it entered the American English vernacular after previous life with such "hilarious" meanings as "tired, jaded, used up," "bankrupt, impoverished," "dead," and "drunk."
Preggers is a playful synonym of pregnant that's newer than all the others we've covered so far: it's a mid-20th century coinage that still carries hints of its origins in British English. Preggers is of about the same vintage as another British term that may beckon to your cravings or aversions, or to both, depending on the day: bangers and mash refers to a dish of sausages and mashed potatoes. Since such matters are well outside the purview of a dictionary, we will close only by saying that some are of the opinion that preggers people should be given all the bangers and mash they desire and that we do not disagree.