How did Children become Kids: origin of the word Kid

origin of kidSomething struck me while writing recently for The Baby View. I routinely type the words ‘kid’ and ‘child’ while writing, using them interchangeably. Doing so I found myself wondering which one should I actually be using and are they really interchangeable?

Does the word ‘kid’ mean the same thing as ‘child’, and if so how did the English language come to have these two words to mean the same thing?

According to Etymology Online, ‘kid’ originates in the 1200s from Scandinavian Old Norse meaning “young goat”. It was in the 1590s that the first usage of ‘kid’ as a slang word for child was recorded. By the 1840s it had become established in informal use. So over 100 years ago what had originated as a term for an animal become established to refer to young humans also.

While it’s acceptable to use the word kids today, it makes me wonder if the word, which originally referred to animals, started as an insult? Such as whispering to your partner while your dinner mates were out of the room, “Would you look at their kids! They’re disgusting. This room is a pigsty”; or rather was it a playful term for endearment? Such as “Enough of that you cheeky monkey.” I was unable to find further information to answer these questions. I did however find a blog post from 2008 titled ‘Please Say Children, Not Kids’ in which the author compares the adoption of the word kid to mean child by mainstream culture as a sign of cultural collapse and an increasingly immoral society. If the author wasn’t so serious I’d have to say the article was kidding (pun intended). But the author does make the point that the word kid is prevalent in society today: media and advertisements use it commonly; restaurants, museums and exhibitions have taken to using the term: “Kids’ meals available,” “Kids under 12 enter free.”; and books use it all the time: ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, or the ‘The Everything Kids’ Cookbook’. The word is no longer a slang term but an acceptable synonym for child.

What about the word ‘kidding’… how did that then come into usage? Also according to Etymology Online, around the same time ‘kid’ had become established as meaning child, the word ‘kid’, as a verb not as a noun, also came to mean “tease playfully” – likely via the notion of “treat as a child, make a kid of.” So the word kid has an interesting journey: it not only changed across species and entered common usage in the English language, it also created a new word. It’s not normal to hear someone say “You’re child-ing me” after a funny moment.

Young goats today are still called kids.

Is ‘kid’ or ‘child’ appropriate to use on The Baby View? Doing a quick search ‘kid’ returns less results than ‘child’ but both are indeed used commonly on the site. And both words are in common use today. While some may still define ‘kid’ as an informal term for ‘child, I think it’s so well-known and well used today that they’re both acceptable terms.

So perhaps it’s now time in history for the new hip parents out there to start calling children by another name? Perhaps ‘pups’ or ‘whelps’? That would sure make them stand out from the herd of goats, err I mean kids.

What do you think of the origin of the word kid? Should we use it like the word child? Let us know in the comments below!


1: Etymology Online –

2: Please Say Children, Not Kids –


Author Bio: Max BellMax is the Father of two young children, a small business owners, and a student studying a Bachelor of Business Studies at Massey University. He also writes online at

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