Bryan Garner on “Parenting”

Bryan A. Garner’s Garner’s Modern American Usage guide.

Bryan A. Garner’s Garner’s Modern American Usage guide.

Parenting, a VOGUE WORD meaning “the raising of a child by its parents,” is a fairly recent coinage: W11[1] dates it from 1958. It began as JARGON used by psychologists, sociologists, and self-help practitioners, but spread into the general language during the 1980s. Its relative grandparenting is much rarer—e.g.: “Grandparenting Styles Differ,” Charleston Daily Mail 10 Oct. 1995, at A8.
Of course, the gerund parenting implies a verb, but that form appears less often than the noun. It’s more jarring, and there’s usually a handy and simple substitute—e.g.:

  • “The group says other clients are trying to have babies that will genetically match children they have already parented [read given birth to] and lost.” “Cloning Facts,” Denver Post, 29 Dec. 2002, at A6.
  • “He admits that marriage ins’t the silver bullet for social ills but observes that well-parented [read well-raised] kids often cause less crime or other problems, thus costing society and government less money.” Abraham McLaughlin, Christian Science Monitor, 13 Jan. 2003, USA §, at 1.
  • “This legislation is a slap in the face to them and to hundreds like them across Iowa who are parenting [read raising children] and foster-parenting [read providing foster homes], with all of the challenges and little of the recognition that ‘traditional’ couples receive.” Letter of Heather L. Adams, “No Evidence for Adoption Ban,” Des Moines Register, 17 Feb. 2003, at A10.

LANGUAGE-CHANGE INDEX
parenting in the sense of “child rearing”: Stage 4[2]

From Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed. (OUP, 2009), 609–610.


  1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed. 2003)  ↩

  2. Stage 4: “The form becomes virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts (die-hard shoots). See the entry for snoot, p. 756.  ↩

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