We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out moreJump to Main NavigationJump to Content
  • Text size: A
  • A

mother, n.1 (and int.)

Brit. Hear pronunciation/ˈmʌðə/
U.S. Hear pronunciation/ˈməðər/
Forms:  Old English medder (rare), Old English meder (dative, occasionally genitive), Old English moddor (rare), Old English modru (plural), Old English moeder (Anglian), Old English–Middle English modor, Old English–Middle English modra (plural), Old English–Middle English modur, Old English–1500s modyr, Old English–1600s moder, early Middle English moderr ( Ormulum), Middle English mader (transmission error), Middle English modder, Middle English modere, Middle English modern (transmission error), Middle English modier, Middle English modiere, Middle English modir, Middle English modire, Middle English modren (south-eastern, plural), Middle English modure, Middle English modyre, Middle English mooder, Middle English moodir, Middle English moodur, Middle English–1500s modre, late Middle English moþer, late Middle English–1500s mothir, late Middle English–1500s (1800s archaic) mothere, late Middle English– mother, 1500s moeder, 1500s–1600s moother, 1900s– muzzer (humorous); English regional 1700s– moother (chiefly Yorkshire), 1800s– mither (north-western), 1800s– mudder (north-western), 1800s– muther (midlands and northern), 1800s– muthor (north-eastern), 1900s– muddher (north-western), 2000s– mawthur (Cornwall); U.S. regional and nonstandard (chiefly in African-American usage) 1900s– motha, 1900s– mudder, 1900s– mudduh, 1900s– mutha, 1900s– muther; Caribbean 1900s– maada, 1900s– mada, 1900s– madda, 1900s– mudder; Scottish pre-1700 matheyr, pre-1700 modder, pre-1700 modere, pre-1700 modir, pre-1700 modire, pre-1700 modre, pre-1700 modyre, pre-1700 moider, pre-1700 mothere, pre-1700 mothir, pre-1700 mothyre, pre-1700 moþir, pre-1700 mouther, pre-1700 muder, pre-1700 mudir, pre-1700 mudre, pre-1700 mudyr, pre-1700 muther, pre-1700 muthir, pre-1700 mvddir, pre-1700 mvder, pre-1700 1700s– mither, pre-1700 1700s– mother, pre-1700 (1900s– northern and north-eastern) moder, pre-1700 (1900s– rare) modyr, 1800s medder (northern), 1800s mideer (northern), 1800s moeder (Shetland), 1800s– midder (northern and north-eastern); also Irish English 1700s–1800s moothar (southern), 1800s– moodher (southern), 1800s– moother (southern), 1900s– mither (northern), 1900s– morr (northern). (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use):  Show frequency band information
Origin: A word inherited from Germanic.
Etymology: Cognate with Old Frisian mōder   (West Frisian moer  ), Middle Dutch moeder  , mōder   (Dutch moeder  ), Old Saxon mōdar  , muoder   (Middle Low German mōder  , moeder  ), Old High German muoter  , muotir   (Middle High German muoter  , German Mutter  ), Old Icelandic móðir  , Old Swedish moþir   (Swedish moder  ), Danish moder  , and further with Sanskrit mātṛ  , mātar-  , Avestan mātar-  , ancient Greek (Doric) ματέρ-  , μάτηρ  , (Attic and Ionic) μητέρ-  , μήτηρ  , classical Latin māter   ( > Old French madre  , medre  , Old French, Middle French mere  , French mère  , Old Occitan, Occitan maire  , Catalan mare  , Italian madre  , Spanish madre  , Portuguese mãe  ), Gaulish mātīr  , Early Irish māthir  , Tocharian A mācar  , Tocharian B mācer  , Old Church Slavonic mati   (genitive matere  ), Russian mat′  , Latvian māte  , Albanian motër   (in sense ‘sister’), probably originally a derivative (with suffixation) of a nursery word of the ma   type (see mama n.1).
The change of postvocalic /d/ to /ð/ before syllabic /r/ or /ər/ (compare father n., hither adv., weather n., etc.) is first evidenced by spellings from the beginning of the 15th cent. The shortening of Middle English close ō   to ŭ   (giving modern English /ʌ/) is regular in the case of words in -ther  , -der   (compare brother n. and int., other pron. and n., rudder n.); E. J. Dobson Eng. Pronunc. 1500–1700 (ed. 2, 1968) II. §18 notes that most of the late 16th- and early 17th-cent. orthoepists who mention the word record pronunciations in ŭ  . The form moother   (with spelling reflecting the original long vowel although it may well have been shortened in pronunciation) persists in standard English into the 17th cent.
In Old English the genitive singular normally coincided in form with the nominative mōdor   (in some Anglian and late West Saxon texts forms showing extension of the mutated vowel from the dative singular are also attested). The unmarked genitive continues to occur commonly in Middle English. Genitive compounds before the 15th cent. are always found with the first element unmarked. Some early genitive compounds with the unmarked form survive to the present day, although no longer clearly apprehended as such (e.g. mother tongue n., mother wit n.). The analogical genitive in -s   is attested early (compare Old English (Northumbrian) genitive forms mōderes  , mōdres   from the second half of the 10th cent. in the Lindisfarne Gospels), and had become standard (outside genitive compounds) by the end of the Middle English period.
In Mother of God at sense 2a   after post-classical Latin mater Dei   (5th cent., in turn after Hellenistic Greek Θεοτόκος  ). In sense 8   after post-classical Latin matrix   womb (see matrix n.); compare also post-classical Latin mater   in the same sense (see mater n.1). In sense 11   after post-classical Latin dura mater  , pia mater   (11th cent.; from 12th cent. in British sources: see dura mater n., pia mater n.).
 I. Senses relating to human beings and animals.

 a. The female parent of a human being; a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth; (also, in extended use) a woman who undertakes the responsibilities of a parent towards a child, esp. a stepmother.Mother is frequently preceded by a possessive (as ‘my mother’) or used as a form of address (where, except occasionally in poetic language, my is commonly omitted); it is also used without possessive (e.g., in quot. 1930) in the manner of a proper name (this usage was, in the middle of the 19th cent., regarded as unfashionable or vulgar, and later as colloquial).As a form of address, mother now tends to be regarded as formal or archaic, while more colloquial equivalents, esp. mum n.2, mam n.1, and mom n., are preferred (see also mummy n.2, ma n.3, mama n.1, etc.).birth mother, foster-mother, surrogate mother: see the first element.

eOE   Cleopatra Gloss. in W. G. Stryker Lat.-Old Eng. Gloss. in MS Cotton Cleopatra A.III (Ph.D. diss., Stanford Univ.) (1951) 314   Mater, anes cildes modor. Materfamilias, manigra cilda modur.
lOE   tr. R. d'Escures Sermo in Festis Sancte Marie Virginis in R. D.-N. Warner Early Eng. Homilies (1917) 135   Þeh manege oðre habben mægeðhades weall,..þehhweðere ne mugen heo gehealde ne mægeðhade & modres beon, ne bearn geberen.
c1175   Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 168   He beþ full off haliȝ gast Ȝet inn hiss moderr wambe.
c1225  (?c1200)    St. Katherine (1973) 929   Of his feader soð godd, & of his moder soð mon.
a1325  (c1250)    Gen. & Exod. (1968) l. 1434   Ysaac..wunede ðor in ðogt and care For moderes dead.
1340   Ayenbite (1866) 67 (MED)   Þis zenne is ine uele maneres ase..ine children aye hare uaderes and hare modren.
c1390   G. Chaucer Physician's Tale 93   Ye fadres and ye modres.
a1425  (a1400)    Prick of Conscience (Galba & Harl.) (1863) 447   He was consayved synfully With-in his awen moder body.
c1440  (a1349)    R. Rolle Eng. Prose Treat. (1921) 11 (MED)   Honoure thy fadyre and þi modyre.
?c1510   tr. Newe Landes & People founde by Kynge of Portyngale sig. Diiv   The[y] ete theym alle rawe, both there one fader or moeder.
1526   Pylgrimage of Perfection (de Worde) f. 13   As infantes or tender babes newe borne of theyr mother.
c1546   Prince Edward in H. Ellis Orig. Lett. Eng. Hist. (1824) 1st Ser. II. 131   Most honorable and entirely beloued mother.
1556   in J. G. Nichols Chron. Grey Friars (1852) 25   The qwenys moder dicessyd.
1598   W. Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost ii. i. 256   Then was Venus like her mother, for her father is but grim.  View more context for this quotation
a1616   W. Shakespeare Coriolanus (1623) iv. i. 16   Nay Mother .  View more context for this quotation
a1616   W. Shakespeare Coriolanus (1623) iv. i. 28   My Mother, you wot well My hazards still haue beene your solace.  View more context for this quotation
1645   J. Milton Arcades in Poems 52   Cybele, Mother of a hunderd gods.
1664   C. Cotton Scarronides 48   So smug she [sc. Venus] was, and so array'd, He [sc. Aeneas] took his Mother for a Maid.
1702   C. Mather Magnalia Christi vi. ii. 10/1   She liv'd to be a Mother of several Children.
1740   tr. C. de F. de Mouhy Fortunate Country Maid II. 177   No wonder my Mother was so indulging.
?1780   'Merry Andrew at Tam-Tallan' Antient & New Hist. Buck-Haven (new ed.) iii. 20   How his midder sell'd maucky mutton.
1790   W. Cowper On Receipt Mother's Picture 21   My mother! when I learn'd that thou wast dead.
c1830   T. H. Bayly We Met! (song)    Oh! thou hast been the cause of this anguish, My mother.
1892   G. Stewart Shetland Fireside Tales (ed. 2) ix. 71   Auld Ibbie Bartley, dat wis trids o' kin to my wife's foster midder, an' her oey.
1920   R. Macaulay Potterism iii. ii. 127   ‘Never mind Arthur,’ she said. ‘I wouldn't let him get on my mind if I were you, mother.’
1930   A. Ransome Swallows & Amazons vi. 71   Mother says I must give you plenty of lettuces and peas and things, or else you'll all get scurvy.
1960   C. Day Lewis Buried Day i. 16   I have a large photograph of it, a photograph that after my mother's untimely death used to hang in dark corners or passages of the houses we occupied.
1990   New Republic 9 July 25/1   Right now only a few genetic tests are used by expectant mothers—for Down's syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, etc.

eOE—1990(Hide quotations)


 b. The female parent of an animal. Frequently applied to domesticated or farm animals. Cf. dam n.2 2.

eOE   Laws of Ælfred (Corpus Cambr. 173) xvi. 58   Gif mon cu oððe stodmyran forstele & folan oððe cealf ofadrife, forgelde mid scill[ingum] & þa moder be hiora weorðe.
OE   Ælfric Old Test. Summary: Maccabees (Julius) in W. W. Skeat Ælfric's Lives of Saints (1900) II. 104   Ylp is ormæte nyten... Feower and twentig monða gæð seo modor mid folan.
c1175   Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 1323   Þe lamb fleþ oþre shep & follȝheþþ aȝȝ hiss moderr.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Bodl. 959) (1959) Exod. xxiii. 19   Þou schalt not seeþe akydd in þe mylk of his moder. [So later versions.]
?a1425  (?1373)    Lelamour Herbal (1938) f. 11v   The swallowis byrd may nought se, till þe moder brynge of that erbe and tuche hir eyne þere wiþ.
a1500   Walter of Henley's Husbandry (Sloane) (1890) 52 (MED)   Let þe femalis calvis haue þe modris mylke iij wekis.
▸ ?a1500   R. Henryson tr. Æsop Fables: Trial of Fox l. 1068 in Poems (1981) 44   Swa come the ȝow, the mother off the lam.
c1540   J. Bellenden tr. H. Boece Hyst. & Cron. Scotl. (1821) I. 39   He maid lawis that grew-quhelpis suld nocht line thair moderis.
1582   S. Batman Vppon Bartholome, De Proprietatibus Rerum 713   The male asse yt is the father of the Mule, is passing cold of complection, and in the Mare that is mother, yt is hot, because of the heat of the horses kind.
1632   W. Lithgow Totall Disc. Trav. ix. 380   Young Chickens, which are not hatched by their mothers, but in the Fernace.
1692   R. L'Estrange Fables ccxxi. 193   Pray Mother (says the Young Crab) do but set the Example your self, and I'll follow ye.
1708   E. Arwaker Truth in Fiction i. lvii. 79   The Lamb reply'd, My Mother's tender Care Has, for my greater Safety, plac'd me here.
1798   W. Wordsworth Last of Flock in W. Wordsworth & S. T. Coleridge Lyrical Ballads 136   A little lamb, and then its mother.
1805   B. F. Sonnets 117   The bleating lamb which had lost its mother.
1868   Ld. Tennyson Lucretius 100   And lambs are glad Nosing the mother's udder.
1922   J. Joyce Ulysses ii. xiv. [Oxen of the Sun] 399   Staggering bob in the vile parlance of our lower class licensed victuallers signifies the cookable and eatable flesh of a calf newly dropped from its mother.
1966   W. Styron Confessions Nat Turner iii. 340   While yanking a borning calf from its mother's womb Moore suffered a bizarre and fatal accident.
1992   R. Brown Before & After i. vi. 69   Carolyn had been rapt with admiration. Watching the new mother moving her kittens, jerking them up by their damp scruffs.

eOE—1992(Hide quotations)


 c. A female ancestor, esp. with reference to Eve, frequently as our first mother (Genesis 3:20).

OE   Ælfric Catholic Homilies: 1st Ser. (Cambr. Gg.3.28) i. 182   God..geworhte of ðam ribbe ænne wifman... Heo is ealra lybbendra modor.
OE   Antwerp Gloss. (1955) 212   Proauia, þridde moder.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Bodl. 959) (1959) Gen. iii. 20   And adam clepide þe name of his wyf Eue, þoru þat sche was moder of all þingez lyuing.
a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 934 (MED)   Eue..þat moder of mani es.
a1475   in A. Clark Eng. Reg. Godstow Nunnery (1905) i. 33 (MED)   Iohane..yaf and graunted..for the helþe of the soules of his fadirs and modirs and of all his aunceturs..ij hydys of lond.
a1500   in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 689 (MED)   Hec proava, the forne modyre.
a1530  (c1425)    Andrew of Wyntoun Oryg. Cron. Scotl. (Royal) i. l. 84   That woman..that Eve we call, For scho wes modyr of ws all.
1568   in W. T. Ritchie Bannatyne MS f. 273   Our first muder.
1611   Bible (King James) Gen. xvii. 16   Yea I wil blesse her, and she shalbe a mother of nations.  View more context for this quotation
1621   T. W. tr. S. Goulart Wise Vieillard 154   When hee [sc. the infernall serpent] first bit and stung our first mother Eue, leauing fast sticking in vs the sting of sinne.
1667   J. Milton Paradise Lost xi. 159   Whence Haile to thee, Eve rightly call'd, Mother of all Mankind.  View more context for this quotation
1727   D. Defoe Syst. Magic (1840) i. iii. 86   The first attack the Devil made upon our Mother Eve we have had fully described.
1791   M. De Fleury Divine Poems & Ess. 218   The first woman, the mother of all living;..Eve..the beloved spouse of Adam.
1816   W. Scott Antiquary I. xv. 322   Thus ejaculated the two worthy representatives of mother Eve.
1849   H. D. Thoreau Week Concord & Merrimack Rivers 342   Eve the mother of mankind.
1903   T. W. H. Crosland Five Notions 39   Eve, our common mother, By pretty, female tricks, Helped to bring us, her children, Into our present fix.
1992   Sci. Amer. Apr. 26/2   With a third set of data on changes in a section of the mitochondrial DNA called the control region, we arrived at a more ancient date for the common mother.

OE—1992(Hide quotations)


 d. Used as a respectful (or mock-respectful) form of address to an elderly woman, esp. to one of little means or education. Also used (instead of Mrs) before the surname (or occasionally the forename) of such a person. Now chiefly archaic and regional.

c1275  (?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1978) l. 12948   Leofe moder ich æm mon.
c1395   G. Chaucer Wife of Bath's Tale 1005   My leeue moder..I nam but deed but if that I kan sayn What thyng it is that wommen moost desire.
a1438   Bk. Margery Kempe (1940) i. 101 (MED)   Þe good preyste cam to hir, seying, ‘Modyr, wyl ȝe gon wyth ȝowr felaschep er not on þis good day?’
1476   J. Paston in Paston Lett. & Papers (2004) I. 490   Owther Symme or Mother Broun maye delyuer it me to-morow.
1496–7   in H. Littlehales Medieval Rec. London City Church (1905) 34   Item, a Towell of the gyfte of Mother Ienet.
1534   J. Heywood Play of Loue sig. Ci   Mother quoth I how doth my dere darlyng.
1588   in W. H. Stevenson Rec. Borough Nottingham (1889) IV. 221   At one wyddoez house named Mother Jane.
1593   Tell-Trothes New-yeares Gift (1876) 13   While mother trot and her fellowes were descanting on others honesty.
1645   Exam. Wizards & Witches in C. L. Ewen Witch Hunting & Witch Trials (1929) 305   Mary gunnell sayth that about 8 years since Mother Palmer came to the howse of Robt. Wayts wch home she then liued and then desired to giue her a pot of beare.
1847   C. Brontë Jane Eyre II. iv. 91   ‘Well, and you want your fortune told?’, she said... ‘I don't care about it, mother; you may please yourself.’
1948   A. Paton Cry, Beloved Country i. xvii. 118   She calls Mrs. Lithebe mother, and that pleases the good woman.
1952   A. Christie Mrs. McGinty's Dead vii. 45   ‘Don't you take on so, mother,’ that's what the sergeant said to me.
1978   L. Dee tr. Hsia Chih-Yen Coldest Winter in Peking iii. 49   Turning now to Mother Ch'i, ‘Mother Ch'i, I must go now.’

c1275—1978(Hide quotations)


 e. A mother-in-law. Now usually (chiefly U.S.) used as a title.

1589   in D. Masson Reg. Privy Council Scotl. (1881) 1st Ser. IV. 444   His Hienes, invited be his darrest moder the Quene of Denmarkis..letters.
1859   Ld. Tennyson Enid in Idylls of King 42   O my new mother, be not wroth or grieved At your new son, for my petition to her.
1955   M. Carleton Vanished vii. 95   She felt very sure that if Radford lived, Mother Tyler had no suspicion of the fact.
1982   S. Paretsky Indemnity Only x. 130   ‘Well, Mother Thayer,’ Jack said... ‘Oh, please, Jack,’ his mother-in-law said.
1998   S. Morris & J. Hallwood Living with Eagles iii. 45   The reception at the Scarisbrook Hotel (paid for by Mother Dunning) was as spectacular as wartime restrictions allowed.

1589—1998(Hide quotations)


 f. Frequently with the. Womanly qualities (as taken to be inherited from the mother); maternal qualities or instincts, esp. maternal affection.

1600   W. Shakespeare Henry V iv. vi. 31   But I not so much of man in me, But all my mother came into my eyes, And gaue me vp to teares.
1725   W. Broome in A. Pope et al. tr. Homer Odyssey III. xi. 188   Strait all the mother in her soul awakes.
1747   S. Richardson Clarissa I. xviii. 121   I thought, by the glass before me, I saw the mother in her soften'd eye cast towards me.
1807   J. Barlow Columbiad iii. 101   Thrice have those lovely lips the victim prest, And all the mother torn that tender breast.
1847   M. Howitt Ballads 33   The mother in my soul was strong.
1884   Ld. Tennyson Becket v. ii. 185   Look! how this love, this mother, runs thro' all The world God made.

1600—1884(Hide quotations)


 g. colloquial and regional. Used by a father to address or refer to the mother of his children.

1855   C. Dickens Little Dorrit (1857) i. ii. 13   Mother (my usual name for Mrs. Meagles) began to cry so, that it was necessary to take her out. ‘What's the matter, Mother?’ said I..‘you are frightening Pet.’.. ‘Yes, I know that, Father,’ says Mother.
1932   A. Christie Peril at End House v. 68   Mother and I..feel it's only neighbourly to do what we can.
1970   P. Carlon Souvenir ii. 35   Don't you loathe the way old folks call each other Mother and Dad?
2008   D. Sharp Mama does Time xxxv. 239   ‘I'll be back for you in a couple of hours, Mother.’ ‘I'll be right here, Father.’

1855—2008(Hide quotations)


 h.   mothers and fathers   n. a form of play in which children act out the roles of mother and father.

1903   G. R. Sims Living London xxxiii. 271/1   Sometimes..they [sc. the boys] will join the girls in a mimic domestic drama of ‘Mothers and Fathers’.
1969   I. Opie & P. Opie Children's Games xii. 331   Even beyond Infant School the girls sometimes play ‘Mothers and Fathers’.
1972   J. Wilson Hide & Seek vii. 130   Shall we play mothers and fathers with our dolls?

1903—1972(Hide quotations)

 2. Christian Church (esp. Roman Catholic Church). Frequently with capital initial. The Virgin Mary.

 a. As the mother of Jesus; esp. in Mother of God.

OE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Tiber. B.iv) anno 994   Seo halige Godes modor on þæm dæge hyre mildheortnysse þære burhware gecydde.
lOE   tr. R. d'Escures Sermo in Festis Sancte Marie Virginis in R. D.-N. Warner Early Eng. Homilies (1917) 134   Þiss godspell belimpe to þære eadigen Marien Cristes moder.
c1200   Serm. in Eng. & Germanic Stud. (1961) 7 65   Vre leuedi seinte marie godes milde moder.
c1390   G. Chaucer Prioress's Tale 1846   This welle of mercy, Cristes moder swete, I loued alwey.
?a1430   T. Hoccleve Mother of God l. 1 in Minor Poems (1970) i. 52   Modir of god and virgyne vndeffouled!
?c1475   Catholicon Anglicum (BL Add. 15562) f. 56   Godis modyr, mater dei, theotecos.
a1500  (?a1450)    Gesta Romanorum (BL Add. 9066) (1879) 405   That blessyd ladie, goddis modre.
1557   Primer Sarum D iij   O mother of God moste glorious, and amorous.
a1616   W. Shakespeare Henry VI, Pt. 1 (1623) i. iii. 57   Gods Mother deigned to appeare to me.  View more context for this quotation
a1631   J. Donne Serm. (1953) I. 200   The Fathers are frequent in comparing..Eve, the Mother of Man, and Mary the Mother of God.
1664   H. More Second Lash of Alazonomastix 521   He..would not allow the most holy Virgin, the Mother of Christ as to the flesh..to be called Deipara or the Mother of God.
1759   A. Butler Lives Saints IV. 891   Her predestination to the sublime dignity of Mother of God.
1761   L. Sterne Life Tristram Shandy III. xi. 43   May the holy and eternal Virgin Mary, mother of God, curse him.
1856   R. Farie tr. A. von Haxthausen Russ. Empire I. viii. 254   On Easter night the Skoptzi and Khlisti all assemble for a great solemnity, the worship of the Mother of God.
1869   ‘M. Twain’ Innocents Abroad xxviii. 306   First—‘The Mother of God’—otherwise the Virgin Mary.
1898   W. K. Johnson Terra Tenebrarum 105   Mother of God, we here enthrone Thee, thy slain Son, within thy house.
a1914   ‘M. Field’ Ras Byzance iii, in Deirdre (1918) 167   That big Italian..Who cried for Maryam, God's Mother.
1994   Latin Mass Jan. 39/3   The Church refers to Mary..and each time sees fit not to call her the Mother of God, or the mediatrix of all graces, but, simply, ‘ever-virgin’.

OE—1994(Hide quotations)


 b. As a channel of grace, mercy, love, etc.; esp. in Mother of mercy. Frequently as a form of address.

a1225  (c1200)    Vices & Virtues (1888) 21 (MED)   Moder of mildce, ðe ic bidde..ðat tu me besieke forȝiuenesse of mine sennes.
c1230  (?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Corpus Cambr.) (1962) 26   Meiden of milce. moder of grace.
a1400   in Mod. Lang. Notes (1915) 30 231 (MED)   Heil qweene, modir of merci.
c1475   Mankind (1969) 756   O goode Lady and Moþer of mercy, haue pety and compassyon Of þe wrechydnes of Mankynde.
a1500  (▸1413)    Poems from Pilgrimage of Soul (Egerton) in F. J. Furnivall Wks. T. Hoccleve: Regement Princes (1897) p. xxxii   Thu lady, qween of heven..Thu floure of vertue, modiere of delice.
?1630   R. Howard Sacred Poeme 29   Mother of mercy, b'it not sayd, that thou Didst' ere reiect, an humbled sinner's vow.
1677   S. Speed To Creator in Prison-pietie 105   Bless'd Mary, pre-ordain'd to be Mother of Grace and Clemencie.
1908   Catholic Encycl. IV. 662/2   As the person is about to expire,..the Holy Name of Jesus is to be invoked, and such ejaculations as the following whispered in his ear:..‘Mary Mother of grace, Mother of mercy, do thou protect me from the enemy.’
1986   T. Murphy Bailegangaire ii. 74   Settle down an' be sayin' yere prayers... Hail Holy Queen. Yes? Mother of Mercy. Yes?

a1225—1986(Hide quotations)


 c. As the mother of the Church and of Christians. Frequently as a form of address.

a1275   in C. Brown Eng. Lyrics 13th Cent. (1932) 42 (MED)   Moder, loke one me wid þine suete eþen [read eyen].
a1300   in C. Brown Eng. Lyrics 13th Cent. (1932) 117 (MED)   Moder, ful of þewes hende..ic em in þine loue-bende.
?a1430   T. Hoccleve Ad Beatam Virginem (Huntington) l. 114 in Minor Poems (1970) i. 47   O blessid Ihesu..And modir..Haueth me, bothe, in your proteccion!
c1450  (c1370)    G. Chaucer A.B.C. 133   Mooder, of whom oure merci gan to springe, Beth ye my juge and eek my soules leche.
a1540  (c1460)    G. Hay tr. Bk. King Alexander 282   Lovit be..the blissit mother Virgine Marie.
1563   N. Winȝet Certain Tractates (1888) I. 73   The glorius Virgine, the Mothir.
1798   S. T. Coleridge Anc. Marinere iii, in W. Wordsworth & S. T. Coleridge Lyrical Ballads 17   Heaven's mother send us grace.
1868   H. W. Baker in Hymns Anc. & Mod. App. No. 736   Shall we not love thee, Mother dear, Whom Jesus loves so well?
1908   F. W. Bourdillon Preludes & Romances ii. 36   More sober answer made the Mother mild [sc. the Virgin Mary].
1987   G. McCaughrean Little Lower than Angels iii. 24   The miracles of the holy saints and their Mother in Heaven, the Blessed Virgin.

a1275—1987(Hide quotations)

 3. A woman who exercises control over an institution, etc., and similar uses.

 a. A female head or superior of a religious community (now usually more fully Mother Superior or, more specifically, Mother Prioress, Mother Vicaress, etc.). Formerly also (occasionally): †a female founder of a religious order (obsolete). Also: a senior nun in a religious community other than the superior. Cf. Mother General n. at Compounds 7.As a title or form of address, Mother is typically used of a senior nun other than the Mother Superior, of whom Reverend Mother is used.

eOE   tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (Tanner) iv. xxiv. 340   Þa weahte heo ealle þa sweostor, & heht to cirican gangan; & in gebedum & on sealmsonge for heora modor sawle georne þingodon.
a1225  (▸OE)    Rule St. Benet (Winteney) (1888) 129   Ðeo abbodesse..sy hlæfedie & moder ȝehaten.
?a1425   tr. Catherine of Siena Orcherd of Syon (Harl.) (1966) 1 (MED)   Religyous modir & deuoute sustren..chosen bisily to laboure at the hous of Syon.
a1500   Rule Minoresses in W. W. Seton Two 15th Cent. Franciscan Rules (1914) 84   Make þey professioun in hondes of þe Abbesse..in þis manere. I..bihote to god & owre ladi blissid mayde marie.., in ȝoure hondes, moder, to lyue [etc.].
1526   R. Whitford tr. Martiloge 110v   The canonizacyon..of our holy moder saynt Birgit.
1571   Acts Parl. Scotl. (1814) III. 59   Landis..in few..of the priouris or prioressis moderis and conventis of sindrie frieris and nunnis places.
a1616   W. Shakespeare Measure for Measure (1623) i. iv. 85   I will about it strait; No longer staying, but to giue the Mother Notice of my affaire.  View more context for this quotation
1671   A. Woodhead in tr. Life St. Teresa Pref. sig. a1   Very eminent in this kind are these Works of the Holy Mother Teresa.
1714   in Publ. Catholic Rec. Soc. (1971) 62 123   To Reverend Mother Abbess of Gravelin.
1798   J. Baillie De Monfort v. iv, in Series of Plays I. 404   And you have wisely done, my rev'rend mother.
1820   W. Scott Abbot I. xii. 243   They call me Lady Abbess, or Mother at the least, who address me.
1883   Mrs. Craik in Longman's Mag. Jan. 306   I could understand how the Mother was just the woman to be head of a community like this.
1907   Athenæum 2 Nov. 545/3   The astute yet saintly mother-superior.
1930   E. Ferber Cimarron 44   Mother Bridget was in the Mission vegetable garden, superintending the cutting of the great rosy stalks of late pie plant.
1930   Universe 28 Mar. 4/4   The Mother Vicaress of the Franciscan Convent, Taunton..died last week and was buried on Saturday.
1961   John o' London's 13 Apr. 423/4   Much of what the Mother-Prioress reveals is deeply interesting to anybody.
1989   C. Harkness Time of Grace i. 46   Reverend Mother looked at us coldly.
1998   L. Purves Holy Smoke iii. 24   A letter..from Mother Mary of the Trinity at the Bangkok Mater Mei convent.

eOE—1998(Hide quotations)


b. Scottish. In extended use: any saintly woman or woman having religious authority. Obsolete. rare.

c1480  (a1400)    St. Mary of Egypt 307 in W. M. Metcalfe Legends Saints Sc. Dial. (1896) I. 305   Spirituale modyr, quhat-sa þu be, for godis sak schau þe to me!

c1480—c1480(Hide quotations)


 c. In full mother of the maids (of honour) . The head of the maids of honour in a royal household. Now historical.

1577–8   New Year's Gifts in J. Nichols Progresses Queen Elizabeth (1823) II. 88   To Mrs. Hyde, Mother of the Mades.
1620   F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher Phylaster ii. 16   The reuerend mother sent me word, They would all be for the garden.
1632   R. Brome Northern Lasse i. iv   She might ha' been Mother o' the Maids.
1682   N. Luttrell Diary in Brief Hist. Relation State Affairs (1857) I. 159   The lady Sanderson, mother of the maids of honour to her majestie, was interred in the abby.
1711   T. Hearne Remarks & Coll. (1889) III. 132   Mrs. *** Mother of the Maids to K. James IIds Queen.
1823   Ld. Byron Don Juan: Canto VI xxx. 16   At their head there stalked A dame who kept up discipline among The female ranks... Her title was ‘the Mother of the Maids’.
1897   Dict. National Biogr. L. 268/1 Sanderson, Sir William   She was mother of the maids of honour to Catherine of Braganza.

1577—1897(Hide quotations)


 d. A woman who runs a brothel, a madam (madam n. 5). Now chiefly as a title.

1596   T. Lodge Margarite of Amer. sig. C4v   A great Prince in the court of Protomachus..who had Macheuils prince in his bosome to giue instance, and mother Nana the Italian bawd in his pocket to shew his artificall villanies.
1699   B. E. New Dict. Canting Crew   Mother, a Bawd.
1749   J. Cleland Mem. Woman of Pleasure I. 45   Mother Brown had in the mean time agreed the terms with this liquorish old goat,..fifty guineas peremptory for the liberty of attempting me [etc.].
1785   F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue   Mother, or the Mother, a bawd.
a1827   W. Hickey Mem. (1960) 56   The third brothel was kept by Mother Cocksedge, for all the Lady Abbesses were dignified with the respectable title of Mother.
1842   R. H. Dana Jrnl. (1968) I. 79   In the middle of the room..sat the old harridan, the ‘mother’ of the house.
1913   G. J. Kneeland Commercialized Prostitution 92   It is not uncommon for the girls as well as the customers to call her ‘mother’.
1973   G. Greene Honorary Consul i. iii. 96   It must be better than life at Mother Sanchez.
1980   E. Jong Fanny ii. v. 207   I enter'd Mother Coxtart's House once more.
1999   Toronto Sun (Nexis) 12 Apr. 52   Jackie Burroughs is a scene-stealer as filthy-mouthed desert brothel owner Mother Mucca.

1596—1999(Hide quotations)


 e. In occasional uses specific to various institutions, etc. (see quots.).

1897   Daily News 13 July 8/7   Separate cottage buildings, each under the charge of a person called a ‘mother’, had been established [as homes for girls].
1930   Amer. Speech 5 468   Theatrical rooming house—Diggings or diggs. Mother (proprietress of same)—Ma.
1953   J. G. Moore in F. G. Cassidy & R. B. Le Page Dict. Jamaican Eng. (1967) 306/1   Mother = crowned shepherdess—the highest female office [in a Revival religious group].
1975   Times 27 Feb. 14/8   Believe it or not, there is [in the CIA] a Mother, whose office..is guarded by young men in grey flannel suits.
1979   Daily Mail 8 Sept. 17/4   Mother, senior secretary.
1983   Times 17 Dec. 2/2   Miss Joanna Davies, mother of the NUJ chapel (chairman of the office branch).

1897—1983(Hide quotations)


 f. colloquial. A female owner of a pet, esp. of a dog.

1922   P. G. Wodehouse Clicking of Cuthbert viii. 197   He was his muzzer's pet, he was.
1924   J. Galsworthy White Monkey i. vi. 39   Ting was..trying to climb a railing whereon was..a black cat... ‘Give him to me, Ellen. Come with Mother, darling!’
1940   N. Mitford Pigeon Pie ix. 139   Many mothers of dogs had fetched their little ones home.

1922—1940(Hide quotations)


 g. U.S. slang. An effeminate homosexual man; spec. one who acts as a mentor to a younger man. your mother: a term used by a homosexual man to refer to himself, esp. as a figure of authority.

[1941   G. Legman Lang. Homosexuality in G. W. Henry Sex Variants II. 1171   Mother Ga-ga, a busybody and a know-it-all; particularly applied to an old auntie, a middle-aged or elderly homosexual, who is likely to be meddlesome and officiously over-informative.]
1947   J. H. Burns Gallery 143   Your mother's awfully late tonight, but she'll try and make it up to you!
1968   L. Humphreys Tearoom Trade (Ph.D. thesis, Washington Univ.) iii. 77   Don't knock (criticize) a trick (sex partner)—he may be sombody's mother (homosexual mentor).
1972   B. Rodgers Queens' Vernacular 138   ‘Jass, your mother's been remade-up for the television crew.’
1993   A. Richter Dict. Sexual Slang 63/2   Daughter, young homosexual male, especially one introduced into homosexual society by a mother.

1947—1993(Hide quotations)

 4. A quality, institution, place, etc., that produces, protects, nurtures, or sustains people, ideas, etc.

 a. A quality, condition, event, etc., that gives rise to or is the source of something. Also: a place regarded as engendering or nourishing something. Chiefly with of, or as a title.necessity is the mother of invention: see necessity n. Phrases 2.

eOE   King Ælfred tr. Gregory Pastoral Care (Tiber.) (Junius transcript) (1871) xxxiii. 222   Se yfela willa..is modur ælces yfeles.
OE   Ælfric Lives of Saints (Julius) (1881) I. 20   Witodlice gemetegung is eallra mægena modor.
a1225  (c1200)    Vices & Virtues (1888) 149 (MED)   Hie [sc. discretion] is moder of alle ðe oðre mihtes.
c1390   G. Chaucer Pardoner's Tale 591   Hasard is verray moder of lesynges And of deceite and cursed forswerynges.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 180v   Grecia..is..modir of philosophie.
c1449   R. Pecock Repressor (1860) 555 (MED)   Loue to money..is moder of passing myche yuel.
1463–4   Rolls of Parl. V. 507/1   Ydelnes, moder of all vyces.
a1500  (?a1425)    tr. Secreta Secret. (Lamb.) 54 (MED)   Stody and loue, desir of good lose in treuthe & sothfastnesse, þat ys..Moder of alle goodis.
1573   New Custome i. i. sig. A iijv   That I Ignorance am the mother of true deuotion.
1597   R. Hooker Of Lawes Eccl. Politie v. xv. 23   The mother of such magnificence (they thinke) is but only a proude ambitious desire to be spoken of farre and wide.
1611   B. Jonson Catiline iii. sig. F4v   For 'tis despaire, that is the mother of madnesse.  View more context for this quotation
1617   F. Moryson Itinerary i. 181   Experience, the mother of fooles.
1632   T. Heywood Londini Art. & Sci. Scaturigo Pref. sig. A4   The Liberall Arts, and Sciences..are at this time..more plenteously inriched by their blessed Mother and bountifull Nurse, the most illustrious Citty London.
1693   J. Locke Some Thoughts conc. Educ. §124   [Lying] is so ill a Quality, and the mother of so many ill ones that spawn from it.
1723   H. Rowlands Mona Antiqua Restaurata ii. 308   The old Celtic..was the Mother of most of the antient Tongues of Europe.
1766   B. Franklin Let. 28 Apr. in Wks. (1887) III. 463   I congratulate you on the repeal of that mother of mischiefs, the Stamp Act.
1799   Hull Advertiser 21 Dec. 4/2   The..maxim that ‘freight is the mother of wages’.
1813   P. B. Shelley Queen Mab vi. 82   Necessity! thou mother of the world.
1828   C. Lamb Blakesmoor in Elia 2nd Ser. 173   The solitude of childhood is not so much the mother of thought.
1923   W. Stevens Harmonium 102   Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams And our desires.
1974   Times 4 Feb. 13/4   His wish being mother to the thought.
1978   J. Updike Coup (1979) vii. 266   Here's to 'er, Mother Change. A tough old bitch, but we love 'er.

eOE—1978(Hide quotations)


 b. The earth regarded as the source, nurturer, or sustainer of humanity. See also mother earth n. 1.

OE   Metrical Charm: For Unfruitful Land (Calig. A.vii) 69   Hal wes þu, folde, fira modor!
a1325  (c1250)    Gen. & Exod. (1968) l. 122   Of euerilc ougt, of euerilc sed, Was erðe mad moder of sped.
a1393   J. Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) vii. 4744 (MED)   Therthe of every mannes kinde Is Moder.
a1500  (c1425)    Andrew of Wyntoun Oryg. Cron. Scotl. (Nero) ii. l. 502   I can be na waye trow Þat oþir modyr haf we now Þan þe erde.
1533   J. Bellenden tr. Livy Hist. Rome (1903) II. 231   This erd that we call oure moder.
1600   R. Surflet tr. C. Estienne & J. Liébault Maison Rustique i. iv. 13   As for the earth..it beareth all manner of corne, fruits,..and other thinges,..and heereupon olde writers haue iustly giuen vnto it the due name of mother.
1625   F. Bacon Ess. (new ed.) 207   Our Great Mothers Blessing, the Earths.
1667   J. Milton Paradise Lost v. 338   Whatever Earth all-bearing Mother yeilds In India East or West.  View more context for this quotation
1733   B. Booth tr. Horace Ode i. xxxiv, in B. Victor Mem. Life B. Booth 53   Earth, our dull Mother, groans.
1786   J. Clowes tr. E. Swedenborg True Christian Relig. (ed. 2) x. §585   The earth..being their common mother..brings them forth, that is, teems them from her womb into the open day.
a1822   P. B. Shelley tr. P. Calderon Scenes from Magico Prodigioso in Posthumous Poems (1824) 379   Oh! Beloved earth, dear mother.
1823   C. Lamb Old Benchers in Elia 202   But the common mother of us all in no long time after received him gently into hers [sc. her lap].
1876   A. C. Swinburne Erechtheus 20   O holy and general mother of all men born, But mother most and motherliest of mine, Earth.
1974   ‘H. MacDiarmid’ Direadh i. 15   I am the primitive man, Antaeus-like, Deriving my strength from the warm, brown, kindly earth, My mother.

OE—1974(Hide quotations)


 c. A country, city, etc., in relation to its natives. Also: a river in relation to those who inhabit its banks. In later use frequently prefixed to the name of a country, river, etc. See also mother country n.In quots. OE, c1384   used of the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. city n. 4a).

OE   Paris Psalter (1932) lxxxvi. 4   Modor Sion man cwæð ærest, and hire mære gewearð mann on innan.
c1384   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(2)) Gal. iv. 26   That Jerusalem that is aboue is free, the which is oure modir.
a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1869) II. 39 (MED)   Walsche men beeþ i-woned to seie a prouerbe..‘Mon mam Kembry’, þat is to menynge in Englische ‘Mon moder of Wales’.
a1522   G. Douglas tr. Virgil Æneid (1957) iii. ii. 11   Delos..the moder..Of the Nereydes.
a1563   J. Bale King Johan (1969) ii. 1717   O Englande, Englande, shewe now thyselfe a mother; Thy people wyll els be slayne here without nomber.
1597   W. Shakespeare Richard II i. iii. 270   Then Englands ground farewell, sweet soile adiew, My mother and my nurse.  View more context for this quotation
1679   in Rec. Colony Rhode Island (1858) III. 374   We being wholly ruled and governed by the good and wholesome [laws] of our Mother, the kingdom of England.
1721   Boston News-let. 28 Aug.   They are a New Club set up in New-England, like to that in our Mother England.
1726   J. Swift Gulliver I. ii. vii. 123   I have always born that laudable Partiality to my own Country,..[and] I would hide the Frailties and Deformities of my Political Mother.
1786   R. Burns Poems 39   Scotland, my auld, respected Mither!
1851   G. Borrow Lavengro xvi   ‘What horse is that?’.. ‘The best in mother England,’ said the very old man.
1901   W. E. Henley Hawthorn & Lavender 102   Blow, you bugles of England, blow Over the camps of the fallen foe—Blow glory and pity to the victor Mother, Sad, O, sad in her sacrificial dead!
1936   H. G. Wells Anat. Frustration xv. 183   Why specialize in Erin or Mother India or Palestine, when the whole world is our common inheritance?
1957   V. Nabokov Pnin i. 10   Those stupendous Russian ladies..infuse a magic knowledge of their difficult and beautiful tongue..in an atmosphere of Mother Volga songs, red caviar, and tea.
1972   ‘P. Ruell’ Red Christmas xv. 153   Came as quite a shock to them when they realised we weren't doing it all for Mother Russia.
1988   M. Moorcock (title)    Mother London.

OE—1988(Hide quotations)


 d. The Christian Church; (hence) any particular Christian church. Frequently in holy mother. See also mother church n. 1.

c1300   St. Thomas Becket (Laud) 2024 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 164 (MED)   Ich lete a-mansi alle þat hadden mis-do Mine churche, þat is his owene Moder.
c1350  (a1333)    William of Shoreham Poems (1902) 94 (MED)   Þer holy cherche þy moder hys.
c1400  (c1378)    W. Langland Piers Plowman (Laud 581) (1869) B. xvi. 197   Children of charite & holicherche þe moder.
1413   T. Hoccleve Minor Poems (1892) i. 40   Þe holy chirches Champioun..Strengthe your modir in chacyng away Therrour which sones of iniquitee Han sowe.
c1460   in A. Clark Eng. Reg. Oseney Abbey (1907) 41 (MED)   To all soones of our hooly modur the church.
a1500   tr. A. Chartier Traité de l'Esperance (Rawl.) (1974) 46 (MED)   O modir, holy chirche, thou arte foundid in humilite.
1562   N. Winȝet Certain Tractates (1888) I. 33   Returne..to your awin moder Godis kirk.
a1616   W. Shakespeare King John (1623) iii. i. 182   Or let the Church our mother breathe her curse, A mothers curse, on her reuolting sonne.  View more context for this quotation
1630   H. Yaxlee Morbus & Antidotus To Christian Rdr. sig. A2v   The obedient sonne of my deare Mother the true Church of England.
1633   G. Herbert Lent in Temple i   The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church sayes, now: Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow To ev'ry Corporation.
1695   J. Edwards Disc. conc. Old & New-Test. III. xiv. 589   A Learned and Pious Son of our Mother.
a1715   in N. Amhurst Terræ-filius (1726) xv. 73   ‘Our holy mother was not permitted to take counsel for herself.’ Poor old gentlewoman! What a sad thing that was!
1746   C. Macklin Henry VII iv. i. 56   Our Mother, the holy, holy Infallible Church,—Heaven's Vice-gerent!
1833   Tracts for Times No. 13. 6   The mysterious time of Christmas approaching, our Mother, with true parental anxiety, takes up..the thread of her instructions anew.
1904   F. W. O. Ward Prisoner of Love 252   To take the solemn vow For Holy Church our Mother.
1992   M. Roberts Daughters of House (1993) (BNC) 115   Authority of our Holy Mother the Church vested in me. Regular attendance at Mass and the sacraments.

c1300—1992(Hide quotations)


e. A university, college, etc., in relation to its past or present members. Cf. alma mater n. Obsolete.

c1439   in H. Anstey Epistolae Academicae Oxon. (1898) I. 184 (MED)   Oure moder, the Universite of Oxon.
c1461   in H. Anstey Epistolae Academicae Oxon. (1898) II. 369 (MED)   Thes yowre..nobyll..geffts un to owre moder the Universite beth for ever to be..had in mynd.
1516   in Select. Rec. Oxf. (1880) 16   Syr to certyfy your maistershype of the estate of our mother ye universitie.
a1613   T. Bodley Life in Trecentale Bodleianum (1913) 14   For the love that I beare to my Reverend Mother the Vniversity of Oxford.
1647–8   A. Wood Life 15 Feb. (1891) I. 140   Who fed with the papp of Aristotle at twenty or thirtie yeares of age, and suck at the duggs of their mother the University.
1668   W. Prynne Exact Chronol. Vindic. III. Ded. sig. A2   Lincolns-Inne, (a fruitfull Mother for sundry ages, of many able, learned, reverend, renowned Privy Counsellors, State-Officers, Judges, [etc.]).
1721   N. Amhurst Terræ-filius (1754) Ded. 5   I had much rather have your approbation than your censure, and enjoy the favour of my dear mother.
1753   H. Brooke College-Green Club 15   Hast thou been so long at school, Now to turn a factious fool; Alma mater was thy mother, Every young divine thy brother.
1844   B. W. Procter Eng. Songs (new ed.) vi. 10   Alma Mater [sc. the University of Cambridge]! Thou mother kind, Who trainest the youthful human mind.

c1439—1844(Hide quotations)


 f. Nature regarded as a fundamental, esp. protecting or nurturing, force. Chiefly personified in Mother Nature.

c1525   J. Rastell New Commodye Propertes of Women sig. Ai   Nature..is mother of all thing.
1550   R. Sherry tr. Erasmus Declam. Chyldren in Treat. Schemes & Tropes sig. Gviv   To manye dumme beastes, nature the mother of all thynges, hath geuen more helpe to do theyr natural offices.
1551   R. Robinson tr. T. More Vtopia sig. Mvi   They..thankfully knouledge ye tender loue of mother nature.
1598   T. James tr. G. Du Vair Moral Philos. Stoicks 22   Shall we thinke that nature, the mother of Arts and Sciences, hath proposed vnto man..an end, which it is vnpossible for him to come vnto?
1601   R. Johnson tr. G. Botero Trauellers Breuiat 27   Whereas mother Nature hath interlaced so riotously her golden and siluer veines in the bosome and wombe of Peru.
1629   F. Hubert Hist. Edward II lxvi   Our Mother Nature..By whom we haue our apt Organons assign'd.
1710   D. Manley Mem. Europe I. ii. 249   Our good and gracious Mother Nature, is said to send no Poison, but she provides an Antidote.
1764   O. Goldsmith Traveller 5   Nature, a mother kind alike to all.
1850   N. Hawthorne Scarlet Let. Introd. 18   This Inspector..seemed—not young, indeed—but a kind of new contrivance of Mother Nature in the shape of man, whom age and infirmity had no business to touch.
1866   M. Arnold Thyrsis xviii, in Macmillan's Mag. Apr. 452   And now in happier air, Wandering with the great Mother's train divine.
1904   J. London Sea-wolf xvii. 158   Old Mother Nature's going to get up on her hind legs and howl for all that's in her.
1958   J. Barth End of Road xi. 188   Like a lot of small towns, Wicomico is dead set against frustrating Mother Nature.
1990   Health Guardian May 3/2   Would Mother Nature..ever have anticipated the multitude of environmental stresses that modern urban society causes to be imposed on us?

c1525—1990(Hide quotations)


 g. A city, country, institution, etc., from which another originates as an offshoot; spec. a city or country in relation to its colonies. Also prefixed to the name of a country, etc.

1560   J. Daus tr. J. Sleidane Commentaries f. cclxxxv   The churche of Rome, mother and maistres of al others.
1764   J. Otis Rights Brit. Colonies 27   Greece was more generous, and a better mother to her colonies than Rome.
1838   C. Thirlwall Hist. Greece (new ed.) II. xii. 106   It [sc. Sinope] became in its turn the mother of several flourishing cities.
1975   Times 9 July 1/8   The American Revolution..betrayed..Mother England.

1560—1975(Hide quotations)


 5. Mother of God (also †God's Mother): used as an oath or a strong exclamation of surprise, disbelief, dismay, etc. Hence in similar oaths Mother of Mercy, Mother of Moses (see Moses n. 1c), Mother of Heaven, etc.In the 16th and 17th centuries frequently euphemistically altered: see quot. ?1577 at motherkin n.   and mother-of-pearl int.; cf. also quot. 1991.by God's mother: see god n. and int. Phrases 3b(a).

1575   W. Stevenson Gammer Gurtons Nedle iii. ii. sig. C iiv   Gods mother dere, if that be true, farwel both naule an thong But who hais it gammer say on: chould faine here it disclosed.
1605   S. Rowley When you see Me sig. H3   Gods-mother Kate, thoust toucht them there, What say yee to that Bonner?
1764   H. Walpole Castle of Otranto ii. 86   Mother of God! said the Friar, is it possible my Lord can refuse a father the life of his only, his long-lost child!
1837   T. J. Serle Joan of Arc i. iii. 17   Mother of mercy, this is pitiful! Orleans! the best stay of my cause!
1868   T. Westwood Quest of Sancgreall 53   He turned to track its flight,—sweet Mother of God! What vision fixed him!
1884   D. Boucicault Shaughraun i. iii. 17   ‘Mother of Moses!’ ses he, ‘is that Conn the Shaughraun on my brown mare?’
1891   R. Kipling Courting of Dinah Shadd in Life's Handicap 46   ‘Mother av Hiven, sergint,’ sez I, ‘but is that your daughter?’
1900   S. J. Weyman Sophia (1922) vi. 75   Holy Mother!.. 'Tis not you ladyship!
1924   M. Kennedy Constant Nymph xxiii. 316   Mother of God! What a hurry the girls are in nowadays!
1955   E. Pound Classic Anthol. I. 21   Mother of Heaven, Shall no one be traist?
1972   J. Johnston Captains & Kings 51   The old man took his watch from his pocket. ‘Getting on for five.’ ‘Mother of God, I'll be murdered. She'll ask me questions.’
1991   R. Doyle Van (1992) 167   It was like a Pearl fuckin' Harbor. Jimmy Sr had half said—For a queue there, when they hit the van.—Oh, mother o' shite!

1575—1991(Hide quotations)


 a. As int. Expressing surprise, dismay, etc. Cf. sense 6c. See also my sainted mother! at sainted adj. 2b.

1899   R. Whiteing No. 5 John St. xxiii. 232   O mother, don't the paint make you feel good!
1909   Sat. Evening Post 22 May 6/3   ‘Gee, what a peach of an idea!’ ‘Oh, mother!’

1899—1909(Hide quotations)


 b. Originally and chiefly U.S. slang (derogatory). your mother! and variants: used as a retort expressing extreme derision.J. E. Lighter Hist. Dict. Amer. Slang (1997) notes that the phrase ‘is widely perceived to suggest go fuck your mother, and for many speakers is therefore equally provoking’; see also quot. 1995.

[1891   in J. F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning 172   Talk about one thing, talk about an other; But ef you talk about me, I'm gwain to talk about your mother.]
1934   H. Roth Call it Sleep iv. xiv. 483   Yuh mudder's ass!
1937   C. Odets Golden Boy 243   [On telephone] I'll bring him right over... You can take my word—the kid's a cock-eyed wonder..your mother too!
1953   ‘F. Paley’ Rumble on Docks 86   ‘Your mother!’ Pooch murmured.
1971   K. Awoonor This Earth, my Brother ii. 17   As he turned into the road, swinging left, tyres screeching, the taxi driver jammed on his brakes, eased opposite him, and said without venom or bitterness, Your mother's arse, don't you know how to drive?
1974   V. C. Strasburger Rounding Third 159   Carter turned around. ‘Your mother,’ he said to the guy who had just finished talking.
1995   K. Burns in A. Sexton Rap on Rap 35   According to brother Morgan Dalphinis, author of Caribbean and African Languages, this is the ultimate pan-African insult. The Hausa say uwarka (‘your mother’), which is really short for ka ci uwarka (‘unprintable’).
1999   F. McCourt 'Tis xv. 118   Weber gives him the finger and says, Your mother, and Buck has to be stopped from attacking him by the duty sergeant who tells us all get out.

1934—1999(Hide quotations)


 c. my mother! = sense 6a.

1959   N. Mailer Advts. for Myself (1961) 93   He roared with laughter now. ‘Oh, my mother.’
1972   C. Achebe Girls at War 107   ‘Plane!’ screamed his boy from the kitchen. ‘My mother!’ screamed Gladys.

1959—1972(Hide quotations)


 7. slang (originally and chiefly U.S.). = motherfucker n.   (in various senses).In quot. 1935   mother for you is itself a euphemism for motherfucker (see motherferyer n.).

[1935   (title of song) in M. Leadbitter & N. Slaven Blues Records (1968) 513   Dirty Mother For You.]
1955   S. Whitmore Solo iii. 42   Jaeger said..‘He's..so weak now, he can't blow note one.’ ‘Hell, this mother never could,’ Alfred laughed.
1959   N. Mailer Advts. for Myself (1961) 358   Old K, he's nothing but a mother.
1962   K. Kesey One flew over Cuckoo's Nest 175   Drive, you puny mothers, drive!
1972   Sunday Times 7 May 10/6   ‘Man we must just get out of here before those mothers get us all,’..he shouted at me.
1973   C. Himes Black on Black 209   That old mother, cotton, is gonna kill me yet.
1987   New Breed Sept. 60/1   This spike bayonet, or ‘pig sticker’, is a mean looking ‘mother’.
1995   Represent Apr. 40/1   O'Shane, a mean mother on the guitar.

1955—1995(Hide quotations)

 II. The uterus, and related uses.

 a. The uterus. Also figurative. English regional and historical in later use.

c1300   in T. Hunt Pop. Med. 13th-cent. Eng. (1990) v. 251   Item pro subbito assensu matricis, hoc est aþye þe verliche rakynggys off þe modyr to wommanhis hert.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 60v   The modir [L. matrix] in a womman is singuler membre disposid as a bladdre.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 140   [Lightning] comeþ out of his modir [L. de matrice sua] as a twynkelynge of an yȝe.
c1450   Practica Phisicalia John of Burgundy in H. Schöffler Mittelengl. Medizinlit. (1919) 211 (MED)   Sethe cawle leuys in oyle..it clensit þe modir and makyth womenn haue here termys.
a1500   in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 632   Matrix, modure.
1545   T. Raynald in tr. E. Roesslin Byrth of Mankynde i. sig. E.iii   These thre woordes, the matrix, the mother, and the wombe do sygnyfie but one thyng.
1609   P. Holland tr. Ammianus Marcellinus Rom. Hist. 55   The daintie meat made of the mother..of a young sow.
1610   A. Willet Hexapla in Danielem 291   That first law was the mother and wombe as it were of all Gods precepts.
1657   W. Coles Adam in Eden ix. 20   The lesser Lavander is much commended in all Diseases of the Mother.
1681   W. Robertson Phraseologia generalis (1693) 897   The mother or womb; matrix.
1706   Phillips's New World of Words (new ed.) at Hystera   The Mother or Womb.
1888   F. T. Elworthy W. Somerset Word-bk. (at cited word)   'Tis a ter'ble complaint 'bout ewes, 'most everybody hereabout 've a 'ad bad luck. I've lost a lot sure 'nough; the mother o'm do come out.

c1300—1888(Hide quotations)


 b. suffocation (also rising, fit) of the mother : = sense 9. Now historical.

c1450   J. Metham Palmistry (Garrett) in Wks. (1916) 106 (MED)   Yt sygnyfyith that..yff yt be a woman, sche schuld dey off chyld-byrth or ellys off rysyng off the modyr.
c1450   in W. R. Dawson Leechbk. (1934) 188 (MED)   For the suffocacion of the modir lat hir receyue þe smoke of turpentyne laid upon the coles þorow hir mouth.
1526   Grete Herball sig. Ddiii/2   Suffocacyon of the matryce or moder, is whan a woman through euyll dysposycyon of the matryce leseth her colour, aduyce and remembraunce, and it is grete payne.
1601   P. Holland tr. Pliny Hist. World II. 40   The rising or suffocation of the mother in women,..it cureth.
1615   H. Crooke Μικροκοσμογραϕια 231   Many passions called Hystericæ, which we call fits of the Mother.
1626   F. Bacon Sylua Syluarum §935   They doe use for the Accident of the Mother, to burn Feathers [etc.]: and by those Ill Smels the Rising of the Mother is put down.
1707   G. Farquhar Beaux Stratagem i. 3   She cures..Fits of the Mother in Women.
1993   Canad. Med. Assoc. Jrnl. 148 399   The suffocation of the mother can be understood as anxiety with dyspnea.

c1450—1993(Hide quotations)


 9. Medicine. Usually with the. A medical condition thought to arise from a disorder of the uterus, esp. its (supposed) upward displacement against other organs. Also: a condition with similar symptoms in men and children. Cf. sense 8b. Now historical.The major symptoms of this condition appear to have been a sensation of fullness in the abdomen and chest with difficulty in breathing or choking; it was later known as hysteria (cf. hysteria n. 1).

?c1450   in Anglia (1896) 18 315 (MED)   Þis erbe..is good to playster and many oþer thyng, For þe moder and to drynkyng.
1540   R. Jonas tr. E. Roesslin Byrth of Mankynde ii. f. lixv   [Diseases of infants.] Fearefulnes in the dreames, the mother, yssuyng out of the fondament gut.
1607   E. Topsell Hist. Foure-footed Beastes 132   It pacifieth the melt,..expelleth away mothes [1658 mothers].
1608   W. Shakespeare King Lear vii. 225   O how this mother swels vp toward my hart, Historica passio downe thou climing sorrow.  View more context for this quotation
1650   T. Venner Via Recta (rev. ed.) iii. 63   It is not fit for women to use that are subject to hystericall fits, which they call the Mother.
1672   J. Josselyn New-Englands Rarities 86   Mayweed, excellent for the mother.
1792   E. Sibly New & Compl. Illustr. Occult Sci. (new ed.) 103   The particular diseases of this sign are..hardness of the spleen, mother, hypocondriac melancholy.
1820   J. Mair Tyro's Dict. (ed. 10) 373   Strangulatus, a disease in women called the mother.
1942   Biometrika 32 205   Then he wondered whether Stopping of the Stomach might not be Mother.
1997   R. A. Foakes in W. Shakespeare King Lear 242   It was called ‘Passio Hysterica’, or, in English, the mother, or the suffocation of the mother.

?c1450—1997(Hide quotations)

 III. Scientific and technical applications.

 a. Chiefly in Geology, Biology, Anatomy, etc. The source of a material substance or object; a main stem or channel from which branches arise; a structure that gives rise to similar structures; the parent stock on which something grows.

a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 205   Þe saphier is Carbuncles mooder, ffor..þet carbuncle is ygendred in saphire veynes.
1604   E. Grimeston tr. J. de Acosta Nat. & Morall Hist. Indies v. xviii. 378   Saying, that these shells were daughters of the sea, the mother of all waters.
1611   R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues   Artere aorte, the great Arterie, mother Arterie, or mother of arteries.
1646   J. Hope Diary in Misc. Sc. Hist. Soc. (1958) IX. 178   By the candle light they wer neere a color bot by the daylight the stonne somewhat whytter, nather was ther any color of mother.
1668   N. Culpeper & A. Cole tr. T. Bartholin Anat. (new ed.) Man. i. iii. 306   All the Veins of the whole Body are referred unto two as their Mothers.
1676   J. Evelyn Philos. Disc. Earth 44   Water..was by some thought to be the Mother of Earth.
1681   N. Grew Musæum Regalis Societatis iii. i. iv. 283   Another clear Crystal, growing on a Semiperspicuous Mother.
1868   J. N. Lockyer Elem. Lessons Astron. (1879) iii. §15 85   Aqueous vapour is the great mother of clouds.
1940   F. F. Grout Kemp's Handbk. Rocks (ed. 6) viii. 180 (caption)    Mineral charcoal or ‘mother of coal’, Colorado.
1971   Nature 36 Feb. 603/2   The daughter nucleus which recoils from the rim of the wheel as the result of alpha particle decay of its mother.

a1398—1971(Hide quotations)

1691   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 16 529   From whence springs up a young Plant, which at last is of its own accord as it were weaned and separated from its Mother.
1721   R. Bradley Philos. Acct. Wks. Nature 41   The fruit of the Indian Fig..will strike Root and become a Plant as perfect as the mother it was taken from.
1992   Canad. Gardening June 19/2   Roots start growing from the node in a few months; when there are at least a fistful of roots, cut the top plant away from the mother and pot it up.

1691—1992(Hide quotations)


11. Anatomy. The dura mater or pia mater of the brain. Usually with distinguishing word, esp. in hard mother (the dura mater) and soft (also †dear, †mild, †near) mother (the pia mater). Obsolete.

a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 39   Þe harde modir & þe mylde modir.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add.) f. 39   To defende þe brayn, tweye wedes ben nedeful, þat ben I-clepid þe modres [L. matres] of þe brayn.
1495   Trevisa's Bartholomeus De Proprietatibus Rerum (de Worde) v. iii. 106   The seconde webbe and skynne of the brayne hyghte pia mater the meke moder.
a1500   tr. Lanfranc Sci. Cirurgie (Wellcome) f. 22v   Begyn to ley vpon þe soft modir [L. duram matrem] a sotill powedr' made of' encence that it go Adown' by the brayn'.
?1541   R. Copland Guy de Chauliac's Questyonary Cyrurgyens ii. sig. Ej   The soft moder by vaynes.
1594   T. Bowes tr. P. de la Primaudaye French Acad. II. 149   Besides this skinne, there is another named the Godly mother, which is fine and very slender.
1615   H. Crooke Μικροκοσμογραϕια 444   The one of these..is thicke and called dura mater the hard Mother, the other..thinne called pia mater, the deere or neere Mother.

a1398—1615(Hide quotations)


 12. The thickest plate of an astrolabe; = mater n.1 2. Now historical.Only in and with reference to Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe.

c1400  (▸1391)    G. Chaucer Treat. Astrolabe (Brussels) (1940) i. §2. f. 76   The moder of thyn astrelabie is the thikkest plate.
1987   J. Reidy in L. D. Benson Riverside Chaucer 1093/2   The body, called the ‘mother’, of the instrument [sc. the astrolabe] was a metal disk, usually brass, pierced by a small, central hole, and surrounded by a thicker metal rim so as to form a circular depression or well on one side, the front, or ‘womb’ side.

c1400—1987(Hide quotations)


 13. Each of the four primary figures of a geomantic oracle.

1591   F. Sparry tr. C. de Cattan Geomancie 8   These four figures be called the mothers, whereof the first is attributed to the Fire, the second to the Aire, the third to the Water, the fourth to the Earthe.
1653   R. Saunders Physiognomie i. 32   I erected my Figure, drawing from my points and lines, a Mother.
1889   Sat. Rev. 16 Feb. 175/1   You then have in all four geomantic figures, which are called the mothers. The top spot (or pair of spots) of each mother is called the head, the second the neck, &c.
1977   S. Skinner Oracle of Geomancy iv. 40   The four geomantic figures..called the four Mothers..are the basis for the whole geomantic chart.
1977   S. Skinner Oracle of Geomancy v. 47   Make sixteen rows of random dots... Divide..into four groups of four lines... Count each line and mark down two dots for..even and one dot for an odd number... Write the four figures, so formed..from right to left, side by side. These are the four Mothers.

1591—1977(Hide quotations)


14. Chemistry. Frequently in plural, or in mother of — . Mother liquor (see Compounds 7); esp. that of a particular solid. Obsolete.

1611   J. Florio Queen Anna's New World of Words at Acqua Maestra   The master-water. Salt-peeter men call it mother of Salt peeter.
1673   J. Ray Coll. Eng. Words 136   (Manner of making Vitriol) The liquor that remains after the vitriol is crystallized, they call the mother.
1679   Philos. Trans. 1677 (Royal Soc.) 12 1055   When the Work is begun, and Alum once made, then they save the Liquour which comes from the Alum, or wherein the Alum shoots, which they call Mothers.
1681   N. Grew Musæum Regalis Societatis iii. §iii. i. 343   The Lee after the first shooting of the Alum; is called Mothers.
1758   A. Reid tr. P. J. Macquer Elements Theory & Pract. Chym. I. 240   Evaporate and crystallize... Repeat the same operation till the liquor will yield no more crystals: it will then be very thick, and goes by the name of Mother of Nitre.
1839   Penny Cycl. XV. 448/1   Mother-water. When any saline solution has been evaporated so as to deposit crystals on cooling, the remaining solution is termed the mother-water, or sometimes merely the mothers.

1611—1839(Hide quotations)


 15. In traditional Chinese medicine, esp. acupuncture: an organ of the body regarded as the source of nourishment of the next corresponding organ in the five element cycle (see element n. Additions); an organ to which treatment may be given in order to heal or ‘tonify’ another organ. Cf. mother–son adj. 2.

1741   tr. P. D. Halde Hist. China (ed. 3) iii. 370   The Heart is The Son of The Liver, which has The Kidneys for its Mother.
1962   F. Mann Acupuncture vi. 69   As the Qi..flows through the meridians in a certain order, the preceding organ (the ‘mother’) receives the energy first and gives it on to that which follows (the ‘son’).
1972   Y. Manaka & I. A. Urquhart Layman's Guide Acupuncture ii. ix. 118   The mother-son rule is the principle that an element is ‘son’ to the one preceding it in the cycle of generation and ‘mother’ of the one following it... Following the mother-son rule, the heart constrictor is mother of the spleen-pancreas (earth) and son of the liver (wood).
1987   M. Nightingale Acupuncture iv. 68   The nourishing cycle is depicted by a clockwise sequence..in which each yin element is regarded as the ‘mother’ of the succeeding one in the circle.

1741—1987(Hide quotations)


 16. In full artificial mother. An artificial brooder for young poultry. Now rare.

1807   Trans. Soc. Arts 25 25   Artificial mothers for the chickens to run under.
1830   ‘B. Moubray’ Domest. Poultry (ed. 6) 48   An artificial mother cannot be dispensed with, under which the chickens may brood and shelter.
a1884   E. H. Knight Pract. Dict. Mech. Suppl. 618/2   Mother, the hen-mother at Baker's Cresshill poultry farm is of hollow zinc, filled with hot water.
1906   Westm. Gaz. 14 Nov. 8/3   Incubators, and poultry ‘mothers’.
1909   L. H. Bailey Cycl. Amer. Agric. III. 543/2   For this purpose an artificial mother is provided, commonly called a brooder.

1807—1909(Hide quotations)


17. A cask or vat used in vinegar-making. Obsolete.

1830   M. Donovan Domest. Econ. I. ix. 329   Into each vat or mother are poured twenty-two gallons of good vinegar boiling.
1839   A. Ure Dict. Arts 3   The vessels employed for carrying on the fermentation are casks, called mothers.

1830—1839(Hide quotations)


18. The living tissue beneath the bark of a cork oak. Obsolete. rare.

1862   Illustr. London News 25 Jan. 101/1   The first act of the cultivator is to separate it [sc. the ‘male’] from the trunk, which thus leaves exposed the liber, termed ‘mother’.

1862—1862(Hide quotations)


 19. Nautical. A mother ship. rare.

1907   Daily Chron. 5 Aug. 4/4   Four ‘mothers’ and the ‘Sapphire’, flagship of Admiral Montgomerie.

1907—1907(Hide quotations)


 20. A disc with grooves that is made from the plating of an electrotyped master matrix and is used to make a stamper for gramophone records, compact discs, etc.

1918   H. Seymour Reprod. Sound 182   The obverse impressions of the original matrix are called ‘mothers’ in the trade, in view of their office in reproducing matrices from the ‘master’.
1935   H. C. Bryson Gramophone Rec. vi. 134   The mother, usually about ·03 inch thick, is then stripped from the master by inserting a blunt knife carefully between them and prising them apart.
1952   J. W. Godfrey & S. W. Amos Sound Recording & Reprod. v. 139   A second negative copy known as the ‘stamper’ or ‘working matrix’ is obtained from the mother.
1968   Jazz Monthly Feb. 4/1   John Steiner..owns the rights to what remains of the Paramount company, including numerous masters and mothers, so it is likely that the actual recording quality will be a great deal better than that on most past Paramount-derived reissues.
1980   Musicians Only 26 Apr. 14   The mother is pronounced okay and..goes back in the tank, this time to grow negative stampers.
1988   V. Capel Audio & Hi-Fi Engineer's Pocket Bk. 79   Further electroplating of these mothers produce a series of negative sons that serve as the actual stampers.

1918—1988(Hide quotations)


 21. Computing and Linguistics. In a tree diagram, esp. a phrase-marker: a node which immediately dominates or is directly superordinate to a lower node or nodes.

1968   D. Knuth Art Computer Programming I. ii. 307   Some authors use the feminine designations ‘mother, daughter, sister’ instead of ‘father, son, brother’.
1975   G. Sampson in Jrnl. Linguistics 11 1   That is, nodes may not branch upwards. We shall call property (iii) the single mother conditiion.
1978   R. A. Hudson in Language 54 374   By convention, a node that has two mothers, such as node 1, has its position determined by the sequence rules for the higher mother.
1989   ICAME Jrnl. 13 22   The mother is itself found immediately preceding the first occurrence of that number in the tree.
1994   F. Cornish in Lingua 93 245   The new node is the after-movement mother of the moved element and a second node, and..the new mother node bears the label of its non-moved daughter.

1968—1994(Hide quotations)



P1. Proverbial phrases.

 a. to have too much of one's mother's blessing : to be unreasonably prudish or scrupulous. Obsolete.

1606   L. Bryskett Disc. Ciuill Life 102   Too much, is harmeful euen in iustice it self: whereupon is growne..our English prouerbe, that too much of a mans mothers blessing is not good.
1623   J. Stradling Beati Pacifici cclxviii. 54   One may haue too much of his mothers blessing.

1606—1623(Hide quotations)


 b. to give (a person) one's mother for a maid : an expression used to emphasize the unlikelihood of a specified action, event, etc., ever taking place. Obsolete.

a1640   J. Rous in MS Ashm. 36 lf. 112   If euor Ice doe come heare againe, Ice zaid, Chil give thee my Mother vor a maid.
a1689   A. Behn Younger Brother (1696) i. ii. 8   If ever you catch me at your Damn'd Clubs again, I'll give you my Mother for a Maid.

a1640—a1689(Hide quotations)

 P2. colloquial.

 a. does your mother know you're out? and variants: a jeering or condescending question addressed to a person whose behaviour is regarded as juvenile or inappropriate.

1837   J. S. Coyne Queer Subj. i. iv. 10   Who are you? does your mother know you're out?
1842   R. H. Barham Misadventures Margate in Ingoldsby Legends 2nd Ser. 156   Sir, does your mother know that you are out?
1872   O. W. Holmes Poet at Breakfast-table in Wks. (1892) III. 323   The saucy question, ‘Does your mother know you're out?’ was the very same that Horace addressed to the bore who attacked him in the Via Sacra.
1951   N. Marsh Opening Night i. 23   ‘Does yer mother know you're aht?’ he asked ironically... She was oppressed with renewed loneliness and fear.
1975   ‘C. Aird’ Slight Mourning vii. 65   ‘Theft during the hours of darkness,’ intoned Leeyes gloomily. ‘Does his mother know he's out?’

1837—1975(Hide quotations)


 b. just like mother makes and variants: having the good qualities of home cooking; exactly to one's taste. Also in extended use.

1866   F. Moore Women of War 360   If I could only get a cup of tea like mother made, I believe I should get well.
1898   W. P. Ridge Mord Em'ly x. 142   Beef Pudding same like Mother makes!
1919   P. G. Wodehouse Damsel in Distress i. 18   There's a new musical comedy at the Regal. Opened last night, and seems to be just like mother makes.
1927   W. E. Collinson Contemp. Eng. 52   The notice outside some eating-houses, beef-steak pie like mother makes it!
1975   D. Clark Premedicated Murder iv. 68   Just like my old mother used to make. A bit of candied peel in a bun can't be beat.
2001   New Straits Times (Malaysia) (Nexis) 2 June 4   Let's just say it's not like what mother used to make.

1866—2001(Hide quotations)


 c. to be mother : to serve out food or drink; spec. to be the person who pours the tea.

[1926   G. B. Shaw Glimpse of Reality in Transl. & Tomfooleries 184   Let us get to work at the supper. You shall be the mother of the family and give us our portions, Giulietta.]
1934   P. Hamilton Plains of Cement 60   ‘Shall I be mother?’, said Ella, and started to pour out the tea.
1958   ‘J. Brogan’ Cummings Rep. ii. 17   We'll go and have tea, and you be Mother.
1967   J. Porter Dover & Unkindest Cut iv. 41   MacGregor, hearing the tea cups rattling outside..opened the door again. ‘Shall I be mother, sir?’
1974   J. Mitchell Death & Bright Water xx. 243   ‘Shall I be mother?’ Callan nodded, and Blythe's strong fingers popped the cork, the champagne foamed into the glasses.
1983   A. Bleasdale Jobs for Boys xvi. 27   As Chrissie is nearest the kettle he is about to be mother.

1934—1983(Hide quotations)


 d. English regional. black (also dark) over Bill's (also Will's) mother's and variants: (of the sky) overcast with dark clouds in a specified direction, esp. as an indication of coming rain. Also occasionally in extended use.

1930   Notes & Queries 21 June 441/2   There is a very old Sussex saying, when vast clouds appear on the horizon, namely, ‘It looks pretty black over Will's mother's.’
1958   Amateur Historian 4 34   Most of our showers and persistent rains come from the south-west; and, when a storm is blowing up from that direction, one often hears people say: ‘We shall soon have rain; it's getting dark over Will's Mother's.’
1977   Spectator 26 Mar. 8/3   As they say in the Midlands when bad tidings are clearly imminent, ‘It's looking black over Bill's mother's place.’
1993   Daily Mail (Nexis) 13 Sept. 34   It looks bad over Will's mother.
2002   A. Fine Jamie & Angus Stories 102   I reckon it's getting a little bit black over Bill's mother's.

1930—2002(Hide quotations)


 e. Chiefly British. some mothers do 'ave 'em and variants: an expression of exasperation, derision, etc., usually at a person's perceived clumsy, erratic, or idiotic actions or behaviour.Apparently originally a Lancashire saying popularized, as don't some mothers 'ave 'em, by James Robertson ‘Jimmy’ Clitheroe in his BBC radio programme The Clitheroe Kid, which ran from 1958 to 1972 (see E. Partridge Dict. Catch Phrases (ed. 2) 279/2). The phrase gained further currency as the title of the BBC television comedy series Some Mothers do 'ave 'Em (1973–8), in which Michael Crawford starred as the clumsy, accident-prone Frank Spencer.

1960   E. Morgan You're Long Time Dead 371   Lord, some mothers do 'ave 'em, here we go again.
1975   ‘E. Ferrars’ Cup & Hip vi. 82   ‘Some mothers do have 'em’, she said drily. ‘Do you think that bright idea of yours would make Helen feel better?’
1992   G. M. Fraser Quartered Safe out Here 17   ‘Christ, some mothers don't 'alf' ave 'em! An educated sod like you—I seen you doin' bleedin' crosswords.’ He cackled and shook his head.
2001   Irish Times (Nexis) 27 Jan. 72   Some mothers do 'ave 'em, and Margaret Drabble's Mommie Dearest drew the short straw with a daughter some feel has used her blood for ink.

1960—2001(Hide quotations)



 C1. General attributive.
 a. Chiefly literary and poetic. With sense ‘of or relating to a mother’.

  mother arms   n.

a1826   R. Heber Poet. Wks. (1841) 232   She ceas'd, and round his linked hauberk threw Her mother arms.
1843   T. Carlyle Past & Present iii. viii. 235   In how many ways..does she, as with blessed mother-arms, enfold us all!
1916   E. R. Burroughs Beasts of Tarzan ix. 141   Quick hands snatched the bundle from the cook, and hungry mother arms folded the sleeping infant to her breast.
1991   M. S. Hammond World without End in Out of Canaan 48   I'm embroidered with welts, smocked and ruched, with stubs sticking out, my mother arms chopped off.

a1826—1991(Hide quotations)


  mother-bosom   n.

1834   T. Carlyle Sartor Resartus in Fraser's Mag. Mar. 307/2   Into the wilds of Nature; as if in her mother-bosom he would seek healing.
1906   C. M. Doughty Dawn in Brit. IV. xv. 127   Uneath, their shrill swift chariots..touch the mother-bosom of the ground.

1834—1906(Hide quotations)


  mother heart   n.

1839   E. S. Wortley Visionary iii. cccxxxi. 343   Once more on England's hallowed shores I tread; Once more come home!—unto thy Mother-heart, My Land of Birth and Love!
1918   W. M. Kirkland Joys of being Woman ix. 90   Strange paradox that the first emotion of the baby soul should be bitterness against all those contrivances of decency, those hemstitched linens and embroidered flannels, through which the mother heart eased its brooding love.

1839—1918(Hide quotations)


  mother-instinct   n.

[1860   Ladies' Repository May 280/1   The wife and mother instinct would not allow her to remain long in the dark.]
1874   Appletons' Jrnl. Sept. 392/2   The mother-instinct, dormant through all these childless years, seems roused within me at last!
1881   ‘M. Twain’ Prince & Pauper 114   Her sharp mother-instinct seemed to detect it.
1986   J. Joseph Persephone xxv. 127   The mother-instinct of this ‘redoubtable’ lady seems to have developed rather late in the day.

1874—1986(Hide quotations)


  mother-mind   n.

1647   A. Cowley Mistresse 16   Thoughts..Fair and chast, as Mother-Mind.
1953   R. Graves Poems 20   ‘Let them play,’ her mother-mind repeats.
1992   R. Kelly Strange Market 133   She also was, every circumstance my sister, every jest my brother, and of this mother mind we both are fleshed.

1647—1992(Hide quotations)


  mother-pain   n.

1709   D. Manley Secret Mem. (ed. 2) II. 34   When the Mother-Pains came upon [her].
1947   Sat. Rev. (U.S.) 17 May 8   When day is here, and hunger sucks the nipple-drops of blood and sweat that swell the mother pain.
1997   G. Gildner Bunker in Parsley Fields ii. 33   A father whose first-born came to assist at her sister's birth, stroking the mother-pain.

1709—1997(Hide quotations)


  mother-pang   n.

1710   D. Manley Mem. Europe I. i. 1   Like..Abortives under the Mother-Pangs.
1819   J. H. Payne Brutus v. iii   To strike their country in the mother-pangs Of struggling child-birth.
1879   E. J. Pfeiffer Quarterman's Grace 11   The girl upon the stair..Had waked in her some mother-pang.

1710—1879(Hide quotations)


  mother-pity   n.

1878   W. Pater Wks. (1901) V. 110   His [sc. Charles Lamb's] simple mother-pity for those who suffer.

1878—1878(Hide quotations)


  mother-sentiment   n.

1920   T. P. Nunn Education xii. 146   The mother-sentiment appears, to be followed..by the father-sentiment.

1920—1920(Hide quotations)


  mother-smile   n.

1838   E. B. Browning Rom. Ganges xix   Press deeper down thy mother-smile His glossy curls among.
1875   H. Ellison Stones from Quarry 233   In sunshine of thy Mother-smile to bask.

1838—1875(Hide quotations)


  mother-want   n.

1856   E. B. Browning Aurora Leigh i. 2   I felt a mother-want about the world.

1856—1856(Hide quotations)


 b. With sense ‘inherited or learned from one's mother, native’, as mother dialect, mother-sense, mother speech, mother-temper, etc. Cf. mother tongue n., mother wit n.

1603   G. Owen Descr. Penbrokshire (1892) iii. 36   For otherwise the Englishe tongue had not ben theire comon and mother speache as it was.
1622   F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher Philaster (new ed.) v. 70   Let..your nimble tongs forget your mother Gibberish.
1644   J. Milton Of Educ. 2   He were nothing so much to be esteem'd a learned man, as any..tradesman competently wise in his mother dialect only.
1729   W. Law Serious Call xix. 348   As we call our first language our mother-tongue, so we may as justly call our first tempers our mother-tempers.
1851   G. Borrow Lavengro xvii   You want two things, brother: mother sense, and gentle Rommany.
1868   W. Barnes Poems Rural Life Pref.   My homely poems in our Dorset mother-speech.
1904   J. Wells Life J. H. Wilson vi. 64   A racy and powerful evangelist in his mother-Scotch.
1997   Eng. World-wide 18 2   Ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia was largely language-based, i.e. ethnicity was defined by the mother dialect.

1603—1997(Hide quotations)

 C2. Appositive.

 a. With sense ‘that is the source or origin of others, or (occasionally) that fulfils a protective or nurturing role’, as mother colony, mother-lodge, mother vein, etc. See also motherland n., mother ship n.2

?c1225  (?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 161   Ȝe habbeð an dale iherd..of þeo þe me cleopeð seoue moder sunnen.
1325   in J. Robertson Illustr. Topogr. & Antiq. Aberdeen & Banff (1857) III. 547   Incipiendo ad inferiorem finem de la Modirlech qui vocatur Gramos et sic ambulando [etc.].
1479   in J. Raine Priory of Hexham (1865) II. 24 (MED)   Molendinum..cum stagno et le modir-dame.
1593   R. Hooker Of Lawes Eccl. Politie i. iii. 53   Those principall & mother elements of the world, wherof all things in this lower world are made.
1604   S. Hieron Preachers Plea in Wks. (1620) I. 484   Because ignorance is a mother sin, therefore [etc.].
1611   R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues   Veine saphene, the mother veine.
?1611   G. Chapman tr. Homer Iliads xxii. 302   Till they reacht, where those two mother springs, Of deepe Scamander, pour'd abroad, their siluer murmurings.
1691   J. Norris Pract. Disc. Divine Subj. 118   Love..is a general Mother Vertue, and the principle of a more particular and special Obedience.
1763   J. Mills New Syst. Pract. Husbandry IV. 403   The layers..must be allowed two years to take root, before they are cut off from the mother-tree.
1784   M. Weighton Drainage Award 9   The mother drain, or navigable canal, now made.
1791   E. Darwin Bot. Garden: Pt. I i. 32   Lifts proud Anteus from his mother-plains.
1798   S. T. Coleridge Fears in Solitude 9   O dear Britain! O my mother Isle!
1824   T. De Quincey Historico-crit. Inq. Rosicrucians & Free-masons in London Mag. Jan. 7   These orders have degrees—many or few according to the constitution of the several mother-lodges.
1854   A. P. Stanley Hist. Memorials Canterbury (1857) i. 26   The Cathedral of Canterbury [is] the mother cathedral of England.
1874   R. W. Raymond Statistics Mines & Mining 342   On the supposition that it is the mother-vein of the country from which the ores of the Silver Flat..are derived.
1897   J. J. Knight Brisbane 25   The mother colony had to be fought.
1907   Practitioner Aug. 320   These granules consist of a zymogen, or mother-ferment, which is called trypsinogen.
1937   M. Covarrubias Island of Bali iv. 75   When the [rice] field is prepared, the mother-seed, which has been picked from the largest and most beautiful ears, is soaked for two days and two nights, then spread on a mat and sprinkled with water until the germ breaks through.
1964   P. F. Anson Bishops at Large ix. 421   St Dunstan's Abbey was advertised as ‘the Mother-Community’.
1973   Country Life 31 May 1544/2   While St. Kitts is now completely independent in internal matters, its people..recall with pride the island's role as the ‘Mother Colony’ for the British Empire in the Caribbean.

?c1225—1973(Hide quotations)


 b. With sense ‘designating an animal that is a mother, or (more generally) is of breeding age’, as mother cat, mother cow, mother sheep, etc.

a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 14969 (MED)   A moder ass yee sal þar find, And yee hir sal vn-do Vte of hir band.
?1465   R. Calle in Paston Lett. & Papers (2004) I. 136 (note)    There lefte be-hynde of Heylesdon folde of my mastre schepe xlj modreschep.
1506   T. Pynnowe Will in A. Jobson Window in Suffolk (1962) i. 21   I bequethe to eche of my godchildren a mother scheep.
1630   in R. Griffiths Ess. Jurisdict. Thames (1746) 74   No Trinck shall stand to fish before any Breach Mouth at the rising or sinking of any Mother-Fishes, or in the Time of Spawn or Brood of Fishes.
1697   J. Dryden tr. Virgil Georgics iii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 99   The Mother Cow must wear a low'ring look.  View more context for this quotation
1793   W. Cowper Tale 45   The mother-bird is gone to sea.
1817   S. T. Coleridge Zapolya ii. i. 77   The mother-falcon hath her nest above it.
1867   Daily Herald (San Antonio, Texas) 20 June   The term maverick which was formerly applied to unbranded yearlings is now applied to every calf which can be separated from the mother cow.
1882   E. A. Floyer Unexplored Baluchistan 202   Then there were four old mother goats.
1911   E. M. Clowes On Wallaby xi. 278   I..particularly remember one snow-white mother-kangaroo I once saw, a rare and beautiful creature.
1946   Nature 26 Oct. 586/2   Both ascribe recent failures of efforts to raise the population of remnants of natural oyster beds to inadequate properties of the mother-oysters used.
1975   Evening Telegram (St. John's, Newfoundland) 2 July 3   The gill nets..were scooping up all the large or ‘mother’ cod.
1981   E. Jolley Newspaper Claremont St. iii. 22   Weekly..had been more and more filled with admiration for this mother cat.

a1400—1981(Hide quotations)


 c. With sense ‘designating a woman or female figure who is a mother’. See also mother goddess n.

1558   T. Phaer tr. Virgil Seuen First Bks. Eneidos i. sig. Biv   My mother goddesse taught my way, as destny dyd me gyde.
1673   Gentlewomans Compan. 3   Be ye Mother-patterns of Virtue to your Daughters.
1759   J. Grainger tr. Tibullus Elegies I. 41   Thee, Orpheus, what avail'd..Thy Mother-muse and beast-enchanting song.
1844   J. Ballantyne Miller of Deanhaugh (1869) 45   Mither wives and laddie weans, Attack them whiles wi' clods and stanes.
1957   R. W. Zandvoort in Wiener Beiträge 65 269   This is what a mother-evacuee said.
1960   B. Malinowski Sex & Repression in Savage Society 26   ‘Matriarchate’, the rule of the mother, does not in any way entail a stern, terrible mother-virago.
1977   B. Levin in Sunday Times 30 Oct. 38/7   Shelvesful of books discuss which of his characters represent the Id, and which the Mother-Archetype.

1558—1977(Hide quotations)


 d. Medicine and Biology. Designating a structure which gives rise to similar, often smaller, structures. Cf. daughter n. 7, mother cell n. at Compounds 7.

1874   Q. Jrnl. Microsc. Sci. 14 304   The mother-meristem of the fibro-vascular system.
a1883   C. H. Fagge Princ. & Pract. Med. (1886) I. 28   In such cases [of infection by inoculation] however, there is developed a ‘primary’ or ‘mother-vesicle’.
1898   H. C. Porter tr. E. Strasburger et al. Text-bk. Bot. i. i. 62   The changes occurring in a mother nucleus preparatory to division are termed the prophases of the karyokinesis.
1977   J. L. Harper Population Biol. Plants 19   The growth of a population of fronds from a mother frond is of course the growth of a clone.
1996   Jrnl. Cell Biol. 134 949   Fatty acid is directly or indirectly required for separating the mother nucleus into two equal daughters.

1874—1996(Hide quotations)

 a. Objective.

  mother-murderer   n.

1850   J. S. Blackie tr. Æschylus Lyrical Dramas I. 195   From hearth and home we chase All mother-murderers.
1875   W. B. Scott Poems 234   Lo there! The mother-murderer!
1998   Daily Tel. (Nexis) 2 May 24   Fear am on point of becoming mother murderer and writing book about it to pay for builder.

1850—1998(Hide quotations)


  mother-slayer   n.

[OE   Ælfric Gloss. (St. John's Oxf.) 319   Matricida, moderslaga.]
?c1475   Catholicon Anglicum (BL Add. 15562) f. 82   A modyrslaer, matricida.
c1480  (a1400)    St. Mary Magdalen 462 in W. M. Metcalfe Legends Saints Sc. Dial. (1896) I. 269   Allace! nov is þe barne sa borne modyr-slaar.
1896   J. Curtin tr. H. Sienkiewicz Quo Vadis v. 40   Why didst thou not glorify the death of Britannicus, and repeat panegyrics in honor of the mother-slayer?

?c1475—1896(Hide quotations)


  mother-murdering adj.

1592   Countess of Pembroke tr. R. Garnier Antonius i. sig. F3   Orestes torche, Which sometimes burnt his mother-murdering soule.
1850   J. S. Blackie tr. Æschylus Lyrical Dramas I. 74   The gods A mother-murdering shoot shall send from far To avenge his sire.

1592—1850(Hide quotations)

 b. Instrumental.

  mother-dominated adj.

1963   Times 23 Apr. 16/4   The mother-dominated hero.
1993   W. Weaver tr. U. Eco Misreadings 117   The phase of mother-dominated education will pass, the rule of the teddy bear will decline and fall.

1963—1993(Hide quotations)


mother-murdered adj. Obsolete

c1602   C. Marlowe tr. Ovid Elegies ii. xiv. sig. D2   Mother-murtherd Itis.

c1602—c1602(Hide quotations)

 c. Locative.

  mother-centred   adj.

1956   R. Firth & J. Djamour in R. Firth Two Stud. Kinship in London ii. 41   Some United States sociologists..have suggested the term ‘mother-centred families’ for households in which the mother has the dominant role.
1991   J. Sayers Mothering Psychoanal. i. 11   Most of all, feminists have been attracted to mother-centred psychoanalysis because it apparently valorizes women's work, at least as mothers.

1956—1991(Hide quotations)

 d. Parasynthetic.

  mother-hearted adj.

1843   A. T. de Vere Search after Proserpine 194   With the dark, cool violets swathing A full bosom mother-hearted.
1853   F. S. Mines Presbyterian Clergyman looking for Church 488   The Mother-hearted bounties of the Catholic religion.
1876   J. Todhunter Laurella 98   O virgin-cheeked and mother-hearted May, Madonna of the months!
1989   Signs 15 79 (title)    Hannah Whitall Smith (1832–1911): theology of the mother-hearted God.

1843—1989(Hide quotations)

 C4. slang (originally and chiefly U.S.). Objective, forming nouns and adjectives acting as partial (more or less coarse) euphemisms for motherfucker n.   or motherfucking adj. and adv.   Cf. motherferyer n., mothering adj.1 2, mother-loving adj. 2.

  mother-humper   n.

1963   T. Doulis Path for our Valor vi. 81   Death, I think, you mother-humper.
1970   J. Grissim Country Mus. 281   Anybody that can follow me is a motha-humper.
1986   J. C. Stinson & J. Carabatsos Heartbreak Ridge 77   Let's smoke this motherhumper's ass.
2000   T. Clancy Bear & Dragon v. 78   Getting the crude out is going to be a mother-humper.

1963—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother-jumper   n.

1950   H. Ellson Tomboy 7   It was that no good mother-jumper that owns the store.
1957   L. Margulies Young Punks 43   But this motherjumper is a white stud.
1970   W. C. Woods Killing Zone 88   He used to be a sad mother jumper.
1977   M. Butler & D. Shyrack Gauntlet 130   All right, you mother-jumpers.

1950—1977(Hide quotations)


  mother-raper   n.

1959   C. Himes Crazy Kill v. 27   Turn me loose, you mother-rapers! He's my brother and some mother-raper's going to pay.
1966   C. Himes Heat's On iii. 30   Some mother-raper is shooting at me with water-melon seeds.
1989   R. Miller Profane Men 62   I didn't even read that mother raper.

1959—1989(Hide quotations)


  mother-grabbing adj.

1959   J. C. Holmes Horn 68   Those mother-grabbin' slacks..were full of seeds!
1971   Playboy Mar. 92/3   ‘Out of your mother-grabbing mind,’ Joanne said.

1959—1971(Hide quotations)


  mother-humping adj.

1961   R. Gover One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding 23   He kin hardly git his mothahhumpin hands roun that wad!
1969   C. Brown Mr. Jiveass 20   Like, it's none of their motherhumping business, right?
1974   C. Loken Come Monday Mornin' 46   He scored..every motherhumpin' point.
1986   J. C. Stinson & J. Carabatsos Heartbreak Ridge 163   Friggin' motherhumpin' Highway.

1961—1986(Hide quotations)


  mother-jumping adj.

1949   H. Ellson Duke 97   We'd been talking about them mother-jumping Kings.
1964   K. Kesey Sometimes Great Notion 218   And good motherjumpin' riddance.
1969   in E. G. Romm Open Conspiracy (1971) 138   Fucking sonofabitch Fascist mother jumping cops.
1980   E. McDowell To keep our Honor Clean (1981) 156   Sanders, you seem to think you're running this mother-jumping platoon.

1949—1980(Hide quotations)


  mother-raping adj.

1932   E. Halyburton & R. Goll Shoot & be Damned xxvii. 306   When I talked to you mother-raping sewer rats at roll call I thought you were Americans.
1966   C. Himes Heat's On ii. 22   The dirty mother-raping white nigger!
1969   C. Himes Blind Man with Pistol xxi. 226   Mother-raping cocksucking turdeating bastard, are you blind?

1932—1969(Hide quotations)


  mother-murdering adv.

1956   N. Algren Walk on Wild Side i. 102   I can make it mother-murdering clearer if you want.
1981   T. C. Boyle Water Music (1983) i. 66   Tiggity Sego, mother-murdering mad over the Jarrans' defection, was now advancing on the town to chastise them.

1956—1981(Hide quotations)

 a. Compounds with simple unmarked genitive.

mother-father   n.  [compare Old Frisian mōderfeder, Old Icelandic móður-faðir] Obsolete a maternal grandfather.

eOE   tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (Tanner) iii. xviii. 238   In þæm mynstre heo & Osweo hire fæder & hire modor Eanflæd & hire modorfæder Eadwine..bebyrgde wæron.

eOE—eOE(Hide quotations)


mother-half   n.  [compare Middle Low German mōderhalf, Middle High German muoterhalp] Obsolete = mother's side n. at Compounds 5b.

lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Laud) anno 1075   Raulf wæs Bryttisc on his moderhealfe.
c1175   Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 10814   Crist..wass mann o moderr hallf.
c1325  (c1300)    Chron. Robert of Gloucester (Calig.) 6665 (MED)   Vor he was in is moder half seint edwardes broþer.
c1430   Acts Parl. Scotl. (1844) I. 40/2   His frendis on the mudyrhalf and..on the fadyrhalf.
a1500  (c1425)    Andrew of Wyntoun Oryg. Cron. Scotl. (Nero) v. l. 3007   Off his modyr half a Brettowne He was be kynde of nacione.

lOE—a1500(Hide quotations)


  mother-milk   n.  [compare Old Icelandic móður-mjólk] now rare = mother's milk n. 1.

a1425   Rule St. Benet (Lansd.) (1902) 11 (MED)   My lauerd munde do to my saul als þe barne þat is done fra his modir milke ouir-arlike.
1989   G. Clarke Times like These in Letting in Rumour 49   Strontium 90, The bitter rain that stained our mother-milk.

a1425—1989(Hide quotations)


mother-side   n.  [compare Old Frisian mōdersīde] Obsolete = mother's side n. at Compounds 5b.

a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1869) II. 145 (MED)   He schulde raþer chese hem a kyng of þe moder side þan of þe fader side.
?a1425   Mandeville's Trav. (Egerton) (1889) 120 (MED)   Half sisters of þer fader syde wedd þai, bot noȝt of þer moder syde.
1483   W. Caxton tr. J. de Voragine Golden Legende 70/2   This thamar was Absalons suster by the moder syde.
1525   Ld. Berners tr. J. Froissart Cronycles II. clxxxi. [clxxvii.] 551   He was extracte by his mother syde of a duke of Bretayne.
1622   J. Mabbe tr. M. Alemán Rogue ii. 184   His kinswoman by the mother-side.
1768   J. Boswell Acct. Corsica (ed. 2) ii. 58   Being uncle by the mother-side to Eurysthenes.

a1387—1768(Hide quotations)


mother-sister   n.  [compare Middle Low German mōdersüster, Old Icelandic móður-systir] Obsolete a maternal aunt.

OE   West Saxon Gospels: John (Corpus Cambr.) xix. 25   Ða stodon wið þa rode þæs hælendes modor & his modor swustor maria cleophe & maria magdalenisce.
a1325  (c1280)    Southern Passion (Pepys 2344) (1927) 1506 (MED)   By his rode his moder stod þat com þider þer-to, And Marie Cleophe his moder suster al-so.
a1646   D. Wedderburn Vocabula (1685) 11   Matertera, the mother sister.

OE—a1646(Hide quotations)

 b. Compounds with mother's or mothers'.

  mother's bairn   n.  [compare earlier mother bairn n.] Scottish rare a spoilt child.

1896   A. Lang Monk of Fife i. 3   Of me, in our country speech, it used to be said that I was ‘a mother's bairn’.

1896—1896(Hide quotations)


  mother's blessing   n. slang (now archaic and rare) a painkiller, esp. laudanum.

1862   B. Hemyng in H. Mayhew London Labour (new ed.) Extra vol. 245/2   My husband..can't do nothink but give the babies a dose of ‘Mother's Blessing’ (that's laudanum, sir, or some sich stuff) to sleep 'em when they's squally.

1862—1862(Hide quotations)


  mother's boy   n. a boy or man who is excessively influenced by, or attached to, his mother; a sissy; (also, occasionally) a boy or man who resembles his mother.

[1721   N. Amhurst Terræ-filius No. 8. ⁋ 11   Where one would stand it out..twenty chose rather to be fondled up, and call'd mother's nown boys at any expence.]
1862   Atlantic Monthly Oct. 403/2   A mere boy, thin, consumptive, hollow-chested: a mother's-boy, Palmer saw, with fair hair and dreamy eyes.
1880   F. Stevenson Let. July in J. Pope-Hennessy R. L. Stevenson (1974) vii. 142   Louis is, as I know, a mother's boy..and I am sure he looks like you.
1930   D. H. Lawrence Assorted Articles 197   Oh, women, beware the mother's boy!
1945   ‘L. Lewis’ Birthday Murder ii. 25   Stan's happy as he is being supported by his mother. He's a mother's boy.
1989   Dillons Bks. Aug. 11/4   Claridge..has chosen a mother's-boy villain.

1862—1989(Hide quotations)


  mother's darling   n. a favoured or favourite child; (also) = mother's boy n.

1592   T. Nashe Pierce Penilesse (Brit. Libr. copy) sig. C3v   A young Heyre or Cockney, that is his Mothers Darling.
1681   J. Oldham Some New Pieces never Publisht 80   All the soft weeping Loves about thee moan, At once their Mothers darling, and their own.
1785   F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue at Loll   Mother's loll, a favourite child, the mother's darling.
1857   E. Bulwer-Lytton What will he do with It? (Tauchnitz ed.) I. i. i. 5   He looked like a mother's darling—perhaps he was one.
1922   J. Joyce Ulysses i. ii. [Nestor] 32   That knockkneed mother's darling.
1936   ‘J. Tey’ Shilling for Candles iv. 41   Mother's darlings had those eyes; so, sometimes, had womanizers.
1996   Chicago Tribune (Nexis) 31 Mar. c28   In the beginning there was T-ball. Mothers' darlings swatted a rag ball from the top of a rubber pole, then scampered toward first base.

1592—1996(Hide quotations)


  mother's daughter   n. a woman; chiefly in every mother's daughter; cf. mother's child n., mother's son n. 1.

a1625   J. Fletcher Womans Prize ii. ii, in F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher Comedies & Trag. (1647) sig. Nnnnn4v/2   Byancha. Get thee where There is no women living, nor no hope There ever shall be. Maria. If a Mothers daughter, That ever heard the name of stubborn husband Find thee, and know thy sinne.
1675   C. Cotton Burlesque upon Burlesque 147   Ladies! thou (Paris) moov'st my laughter, They'r Deities ev'ry Mothers Daughter.
1869   J. H. Browne Great Metropolis 511   Every mother's daughter claimed she wore the identical tresses severed from the head of Marie Antoinette on the eve of her execution.
1998   Bismarck (N. Dakota) Tribune (Nexis) 14 Aug. 1 b   Wanted by every mother's daughter, and wild as the wind, ‘his only direction was his own’.

a1625—1998(Hide quotations)


  mother's help   n. a domestic servant; spec. a person, usually a woman, employed to help look after children.

1908   A. S. M. Hutchinson Once aboard Lugger i. vii. 41   She is not exactly my friend; she is my—my employer. I'm a mother's-help.
1982   A. Barr & P. York Official Sloane Ranger Handbk. 67/2   After the children go to school, it's the downhill slope to cheaper assistance: mother's helps or The Dreaded Au Pair.

?1881—1982(Hide quotations)


  mother's knee   n. the lap of one's mother, considered as a place of learning in infancy or as a place of safety and comfort; chiefly in to learn at one's mother's knee .

[1805   R. Southey Madoc in Aztlan v   The very mother-language which I learnt, A lisping baby on mother's knees.]
1843   C. F. Hoffman Wild Scenes II. 83   The religion learned at a mother's knee.
1909   ‘O. Henry’ Options 110   The big city is like a mother's knee to many who have strayed far and found the roads rough beneath their uncertain feet.
1992   World (BBC) Apr. 11   Raghubir Singh, an Indian photographer with an international reputation, has had a passion for the Ganga—the River Ganges to non-Indians—since he learned of its sacred qualities at his mother's knee.
2000   Herald (Glasgow) (Electronic ed.) 30 Oct.   Hill..is a hands-on cook. It was not an art he learned at his mother's knee.

1843—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother's little helper   n. slang a tranquillizer.

1966   M. Jagger & K. Richard (song, perf. ‘The Rolling Stones’) 1   I hear every mother say ‘Mother needs something today to calm her down.’ And tho' she's not really ill, there's a little yellow pill; she goes runnin' for the shelter of her mother's little helper.
1985   Guardian (Nexis) 23 Jan.   For many ‘mother's little helper’—tranquillisers—are the only way to blot out the daily suffering.
1993   Daily Tel. 9 Nov. 18   At the outset Valium—‘mother's little helper’—and its stablemates appeared to cause few problems, yet in time distressing withdrawal symptoms were experienced.
2000   Guardian (Nexis) 22 Nov. (Society section) 11   Jenner, now 72 and retired, should therefore perhaps be glowing with pride in his farmhouse near Sheffield, after playing his part in the creation of the drug [sc. Valium], known affectionately as ‘mother's little helper’.

1966—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother's mark   n. now rare a birthmark (usually a naevus or haemangioma); cf. naevus maternus n.

1797   Encycl. Brit. XII. 615/2   Nævus, a mole on the skin, generally called a mother's mark.
1887   Science 14 Jan. 33/2   The larger part of the body has remained through life covered with a thick coat of strong hair, due..to an enormously large mother's mark.
1949   H. W. C. Vines Green's Man. Pathol. (ed. 17) xv. 392   These growths..give rise to the common cutaneous nævi, the so-called port-wine stains or mother's marks.

1797—1949(Hide quotations)


  mothers' meeting   n. (also mother's meeting)  (a) a regular meeting of mothers connected with a parish or congregation, for the purpose of receiving instruction and advice, or for social contact;  (b) colloquial (in extended use, with humorous overtones) a gathering of people in (prolonged) conversation together.

1865   C. M. Yonge Clever Woman II. xxx. 312   The mothers' meetings for the soldiers' wives.
1887   ‘E. Lyall’ Knight-errant III. ii. 39   I was just trying to get the Mothers'-Meeting accounts right.
1925   E. Fraser & J. Gibbons Soldier & Sailor Words 159   Mother's meeting, an occasional name among bluejackets for the captain's address to a ship's company.
1946   D. Hamson We fell among Greeks xviii. 195   I noticed one particular squad which was openly idling... ‘Why do you stop work and hold a mother's meeting when I go away?’
1983   N.Y. Times (Nexis) 27 Nov. NJ20/2   Part of the program's success, Mrs. Calamoneri said, depends on close association with the parents. Informal mothers' meetings are held monthly, and there are parent-teacher conferences every six weeks.
1987   Financial Times (Nexis) 13 Mar. 13   Line managers' reports are countersigned by more senior officers and are discussed at divisional meetings—known as ‘mothers' meetings’—attended by a personnel representative.

1865—1987(Hide quotations)


  mother's pet   n. a spoilt or delicate child; (formerly also) Scottish †the youngest child of a family (obsolete).

1819   Benjamin the Waggoner 37   My little boy—his mother's pet, After sucking is sometimes sick up-On his mother's apron lap.
1824   J. Mactaggart Sc. Gallovidian Encycl. 348   Mithers-pet, the youngest child of a family; the mother's greatest favourite; the Tony Lumpkin of the house.
1830   A. Picken Dominie's Legacy I. 104   He was..as raw looking, overgrown, gawky a youth, as any mother's pet of a student.
1867   D. Livingstone 28 July in Last Jrnls. (1874) I. viii. 222   A poor old woman and child are among the captives, the boy about three years old seems a mother's pet.
a1939   C. Porter Compl. Lyrics (1983) 197   It's time that Mother's pet should start to dress.
1982   N.Y. Times (Nexis) 26 June i. 15/1   The troll actors are outstanding. Niehls Kehlet's Diderik burst out with sudden high jumps to signify a spoiled, irascible mother's pet.

1819—1982(Hide quotations)


  mother's ruin n. slang gin.

1933   W. Juniper True Drunkard's Delight 229   Perhaps gin is your tipple; then you are for blue-ruin,..heartsease, mother's ruin,..Brian O'Lynn, or rag-water.
1955   P. Jones Birthday Honours i. 10   I have been to a party, darling... What would you like? ‘Mother's Ruin’?
1970   New Scientist 23 Apr. 165/2   Gin, as shown by the old temperance demonstration of dropping earthworms into adjacent glasses of water and mother's ruin, can certainly eliminate unwanted planarians.
1991   M. S. Power Come Executioner (1992) vii. 52   A little gin for me, I think. Mother's ruin.

1933—1991(Hide quotations)


  mother's side   n. maternal descent; chiefly in on (also by, of) the (also his, her, etc.) mother's side .

c1451   J. Capgrave Life St. Gilbert (1910) 63 (MED)   Than was þis man medeled with too blodis, Norman of þe fader side, Englisch of þe moderis side.
1621   M. Wroth Countesse of Mountgomeries Urania 471   By my mothers side I had, and haue many noble, and braue friends as any man can haue.
1724   J. Henley et al. tr. Pliny the Younger Epist. & Panegyrick I. i. xiv. 34   His Grandmother of the Mother's side is Serana Procula of Padua.
1835   T. Mitchell in tr. Aristophanes Acharnians 558 (note)    Alcibiades, who, on the mother's side, was sprung from Cœsyra.
1919   Amer. Anthropologist 21 28   The sib..excludes one half of the blood-kindred—the father's side of the family in matronymic, the mother's side in patronymic societies.
1996   S. Deane Reading in Dark (1997) iii. 116   Great-uncle Constantine, on my mother's side, was the sole family heretic.

c1451—1996(Hide quotations)


  Mothers' Union   n. (also Mother's Union) an Anglican organization for women, founded in 1876, with a particular interest in the quality of family life.

1888   M. E. Sumner To Mothers of Higher Classes vi. 55   The ‘Mothers' Union’, now started in the Winchester Diocese, and in other Dioceses, is a very simple plan.
1972   L. Lamb Pict. Frame xiv. 123   I shall have to run a mothers' union or something.
1997   Church Times 7 Mar. 5/1   The general image of the Mother's Union is of an elderly organisation, so cliquish as to be regarded almost as a secret society.
1999   Rising Nepal 23 Oct. 3/7   A drinking water tank has been constructed at a cost of Rs 45,000 by the local Mothers' Union.

1888—1999(Hide quotations)

 a. Phrasal combinations with of.

mother of amethyst   n. Obsolete rare = Blue John n. 2.

1797   Encycl. Brit. XII. 79/1   What we call amethyst root, or mother of amethyst, is but a sparry fluor, of which we have plenty in Derbyshire.

1797—1797(Hide quotations)


mother of anchovies   n. Obsolete rare the scad, Trachurus trachurus.

1668   W. Charleton Onomasticon Zoicon 143   Trachurus..the Mother of Anchovies.

1668—1668(Hide quotations)


mother of a thousand   n. English regional (Northamptonshire) Obsolete the hen-and-chicken daisy, Bellis perennis var. prolifera.

1854   A. E. Baker Gloss. Northants. Words II. 34   Mother of a thousand, the hen-and-chicken daisy.

1854—1854(Hide quotations)

1728   E. Chambers Cycl. at Clove   Mother of Cloves.
1968   J. W. Purseglove Trop. Crops: Dicotyledons II. 401   The dried fruits, mother of cloves, are sometimes used as an adulterant and a spice.

1728—1968(Hide quotations)


  mother of coal n. = fusain n. 2.

1867   W. W. Smyth Treat. Coal & Coal-mining 34   Soft mineral charcoal or ‘mother-of-coal’.
1877   Encycl. Brit. VI. 48/1   The last, which is known in England as ‘mother of coal’, resembles a soft, dull, black charcoal, containing abundant traces of vegetable fibre.
1958   Jrnl. Ecol. 46 447   Such fragments are often abundant and were once called..‘mother of coal’, but Stopes introduced the French word ‘fusain’ in her work on coal petrology.

1867—1958(Hide quotations)


Mother of Commonwealths   n. U.S. Obsolete rare the State of Virginia.

1879   Congress. Rec. 10 Jan. 413/2   To pour out the vials of his impotent wrath upon the ‘Mother of Commonwealths’.

1879—1879(Hide quotations)


  mother of emeralds   n. (also mother of emerald) any of several green varieties of quartz or feldspar.

[1772   G. von Engeström & E. M. da Costa tr. A. F. Cronstedt Ess. Syst. Mineral. (ed. 2) 81   Plasma or mother of the emerald.]
1797   Encycl. Brit. VI. 567/2   Hence the green cochle spar brought from Egypt may have obtained the name of mother of emeralds.
1910   Encycl. Brit. IX. 332/2   ‘Mother of emerald’ is generally a green quartz or perhaps in some cases a green felspar.

1797—1910(Hide quotations)


Mother of Floods   n. U.S. Obsolete rare the Missouri river.

1831   J. M. Peck Guide for Emigrants ii. 24   ‘The Mother of Floods’, said to be the aboriginal meaning of Missouri.
1853   C. A. Dana U.S. Illustr. 61   From the savage nations on its banks it [sc. the Missouri] bore the name indifferently of ‘The Smoky Water’, ‘The Mad River’, ‘The Mother of Floods’, each significant of its distinctive features.

1831—1853(Hide quotations)


  mother of millions   n. English regional ivy-leaved toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis.

1832   A. E. Bray Let. in Descr. Part Devonshire (1836) I. xviii. 318   Mother of millions with its numerous small drooping flowers.
1859   Phytologist 3 147   What in Devon is called Mother-of-millions, viz. Linaria Cymbalaria.
1958   Notes & Queries Nov. 488/2   ‘Mother of thousands’... The name is given to the Ivy-leaved Toad-flax which is also known as ‘Mother of Millions’.

1832—1958(Hide quotations)


  mother of months   n. (also mother of the months) poetic (now rare) the moon.

1613   S. Purchas Pilgrimage 13   The silent Moone; which..is Queene of the Night,..Mother of moneths.
a1822   P. B. Shelley Witch of Atlas iv, in Posthumous Poems (1824) 30   Ten times the Mother of the Months had bent Her bow beside the folding-star.
1865   A. C. Swinburne Atalanta in Calydon 3   The mother of months..Fills the shadows and windy places With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain.
1902   H. E. H. King Hours of Passion 32   Among the hollow clouds, Through silver centuries of centuries, Mother of Months, thou hast not dreamt of this.

1613—1902(Hide quotations)


  Mother of Parliaments   n. (originally) England; (later) the British Parliament.

1865   J. Bright in Birmingham Daily Post 19 Jan. 5/1   We may be proud of this, that England is the ancient country of Parliaments... England is the mother of Parliaments.
1910   Encycl. Brit. VII. 15/1   The early date at which the principle of self-government was established in England, the steady growth of the principle, the absence of civil dissension, and the preservation in the midst of change of so much of the old organization, have given its constitution a great influence over the ideas of politicians in other countries. This fact is expressed in the proverbial phrase—‘England is the mother of parliaments’.
1918   Daily Mirror 12 Nov. 6/2   Never has the Mother of Parliaments seen such a scene of enthusiasm as when Mr. Lloyd George read out the armistice terms yesterday.
1926   H. H. Asquith Fifty Years of Parl. II. vii. 228   The phrase had already become proverbial before it was used by Mr. Bright. It is a vulgar error to speak of the English Parliament as the ‘Mother of Parliaments’.
1974   Times 24 Aug. 2/4   France Soir..went on to explain why in the country of the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ social tension has grown.
1990   Country Life 24 May 112/3   Warm feelings about the mother of parliaments had been generated by British support for the Hungarians in their uprising of 1848.

1865—1990(Hide quotations)


  Mother of Presidents   n. U.S. (originally) the State of Virginia; (now also) (more fully Modern Mother of Presidents) the State of Ohio.

1827   A. Sherwood Gazetteer Georgia 98   James Monroe..was born in Va., the mother of Presidents.
1850   Congress. Globe App. 13 May 563/3   Virginia, the mother of Presidents, the Old Dominion.
1897   Chicago Rec. 8 Mar. 4/1   Ohio may claim to take rank with Virginia as a ‘mother of presidents’.
1904   N.Y. Tribune 12 June 8   Virginia concluded not to indorse any candidate. The ‘Mother of Presidents’ is a trifle particular.
1942   L. V. Berrey & M. Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Slang §48/33   Ohio, Buckeye State, Modern Mother of Presidents, Scarlet Carnation State, [etc.].
1998   Roanoke (Virginia) Times & World News (Nexis) 6 Dec. b1   ‘Virginia is the mother of presidents. We'd love to have another one,’ said Trixie Averill, who coordinated Allen's 1993 gubernatorial campaign.
1999   Dayton (Ohio) Daily News (Nexis) 10 Jan. 9 a   Before it became known as ‘the Mother of Presidents’, the state of Ohio might well have deserved to be known as the Father of Impeachment.

1827—1999(Hide quotations)


  Mother of States   n. U.S. the State of Virginia (also Mother of States and Statesmen); (also, occasionally) the State of Connecticut (rare).

1834   W. A. Caruthers Kentuckian in N.Y. ii. 195   Virginia has been the mother of states.
1838   Yale Lit. Mag. 3 86   To thee, Mother of States! to thee, good old Connecticut, do our praises most belong.
1855   Southern Literary Messenger 21 675/1   Virginia..[was] hailed as ‘the Mother of States’.
1896   Congress. Rec. 9 June 6342/2   That grand old Commonwealth of Virginia, the mother of States and statesmen.
1915   J. A. Early Heritage of South 99   Enough men to fill the petty offices..could not be found in all the limits of that old commonwealth which has been designated ‘the mother of states and statesmen’.
1994   Roanoke (Virginia) Times & World News (Nexis) 13 Dec. (Extra section) 1   Mother of states, mother of presidents. Virginia has also mothered a good portion of award-winning authors this century.

1834—1994(Hide quotations)


  mother of the bride   n. the mother of a bride, esp. of a bride on her wedding day; now also as a modifier.In early use not a fixed phrase. In later use sometimes abbreviated MOTB (also MOB).

1548   Hall's Vnion: Henry VI f. clxiviij   The Marques of Suffolke..espoused the said Ladie, in the churche of sainct Martyns. At whiche mariage were present, the father and mother of the bride.
1896   V. Clavering Sin for Season ix. 86   Anyone to have seen her..would have supposed that she was the mother of the bride, at least; for she ordered everybody about and undertook the whole conduct of affairs generally.
1977   Monitor (McAllen, Texas) 26 June 1 c/2   The mother of the bride wore a pale blue gown..with a fitted long-sleeved jacket.
2009   G. Halliday Mayhem in High Heels xiv. 194   ‘I bought the most beautiful mother-of-the-bride dress,’ Larry gushed. ‘Blue chiffon, with little yellow daisies all over. Just darling!’

1548—2009(Hide quotations)


mother of the herrings   n. (also mother of herrings) Obsolete rare the allis shad, Alosa alosa.

1686   F. Willughby & J. Ray De Hist. Piscium ix. ix. §9   Clupea..Angl. A Shad, the Mother of the Herrings.
1776   T. Pennant Brit. Zool. (ed. 4, octavo) III. 348   Shad, or Mother of Herrings. Wil. Icth. 227.

1686—1776(Hide quotations)


  Mother of the House   n. the longest serving female member of a legislative assembly; cf. Father of the House n. at father n. Phrases 6.Cf. earlier mother of the House of Commons (see quot. 1920).Not in North American use, and used most often in the context of the British House of Commons.

[1920   Aberdeen Daily Jrnl. 27 Mar. 6/1   Mr Billing..said that the hon. and noble lady [sc. Lady Astor], as the mother of the House of Commons..had told them what she would do with them if they did not agree to what was really the nationalisation of drink.]
1981   Guardian 12 June 2/8   Dame Judith Hart..was the Mother of the House, having entered Parliament along with Mrs Thatcher in 1959.
2005   W. Peters in N.Z. Parl. Deb. 623 18945   The role of mother of the House now passes to one Helen Clark.
2019   Herald (Glasgow) (Nexis) 25 July 5   Responding to the longest serving female MP, the Mother of the House Harriet Harman, at PMQs, Mrs May said she was one of just 13 female Tory MPs when she was first elected in 1997.

1981—2019(Hide quotations)


mother of the wood   n. Obsolete rare the plant woodruff, Asperula odorata.Apparently only attested in dictionaries or glossaries.

1891   New Sydenham Soc. Lexicon at Mother   Mother of the wood, the Asperula odorata.

1891—1891(Hide quotations)


  mother of thyme   n. (also mother of time) now chiefly North American any of several thymes or related plants, esp.  (a) wild thyme, Thymus polytrichus;  (b) English regional (Somerset), basil thyme, Acinos arvensis.

1597   J. Gerard Herball ii. 457   Wild Time is called..in English..Mother of Time, and our Ladies Bedstrawe.
1693   S. Dale Pharmacologia 234   Serpullum vulgare,..Mother of Thyme.
1794   W. Hutchinson Hist. Cumberland II. 525   Upon the banks of Eden grows an herb called mother of thyme, said to be medicinal.
1886   J. Britten & R. Holland Dict. Eng. Plant-names 343   Mother of Thyme, Calamintha Acinos, Clairv.—Som[erset].
1976   Hortus Third (L. H. Bailey Hortorium) 1111/2   [Thymus] praecox Opiz... Mother-of-thyme.

1597—1976(Hide quotations)


mother-of-wheat   n. Scottish Obsolete ivy-leaved speedwell, Veronica hederifolia, a weed of cornfields.

1853   G. Johnston Terra Lindisfarnensis I. 155   Veronica Hederifolia. Mother-of-Wheat—a name which implies that the plant grows best in a soil fitted for the cultivation of that grain.
1876   Hardwicke's Sci.-gossip 12 39/2   Veronica hederifolia is named by farmers [near Kelso] the ‘mother-of-wheat’.

1853—1876(Hide quotations)


mother of yaws   n. Obsolete a mama-pian, a mother yaw.

1891   New Sydenham Soc. Lexicon at Mother   Mother of yaws.

1891—1891(Hide quotations)


  mother of all ——   n.  [in quot. 1990   after Arabic umm al-maʿārik mother of battles (see also note below)] something that is outstanding or exemplary (in magnitude, importance, etc.); anything that is definitive in character, or that is the epitome of its kind; frequently humorous. Cf. the father and mother of a —— at father n. Phrases 8.Popularized as a catchphrase by Saddam Hussein (b. Saddam bin Hussein at-Takriti 1937), President of Iraq from 1979, with reference to the Gulf War (see quot. 1990). Perhaps reinforced in later use by the euphemistic use of mother to mean ‘motherfucker’ (see sense 7   and motherfucker n. 2b), hence the occasionally occurrence of the form mutha in the phrase.

1878   F. H. Hart Sazerac Lying Club 99   I seed the biggest trout I ever laid eyes on... The mother of all the trouts in Reese River, by thunder.
[1892   R. Kipling Lett. of Trav. (1920) 41   The father and mother of all weed-spuds.]
1936   B. Atkinson in N.Y. Times 28 Dec. 13/2   Ilka Chase presides over the proceedings like the mother of all vultures; playing the part as it was written, she leaves no bone unpicked.
1990   tr. S. Hussein in Summary of World Broadcasts Pt. 4: Middle East, Afr. & Latin Amer. (B.B.C.) 22 Sept. ME/0876/A/1   What midgets they are! May they, most of all Bush and his servants Fahd and Husni, be accursed... Everybody must realise that this battle will be the mother of all battles.
1992   Economist 15 Feb. 92/1   America's current economic recession is being billed as the ‘mother of all recessions’: the economy, it is claimed, is mired in its longest recession since the second world war.
1995   New Statesman & Society 17 Mar. 35/1   What writers can suffer from is the notorious writer's block, and I've just been reading the work of Henry Roth, the man famous for enduring the mother of all writer's blocks.
2000   New Yorker 22 May 22/2   A sentimental fantasy by director Gregory Hoblit which wants to be the mother of all father-son movies.

1878—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother-alkali   n. now rare impure or weak soda ash (sodium carbonate) obtained by evaporating the liquid from the mother liquor of soda ash.

1880   J. Lomas Man. Alkali Trade 244   ‘Weak’ or ‘mother’ alkali is a fine powdery substance.
1910   Encycl. Brit. I. 682/2   The mother-liquor, drained from the soda-crystals, on boiling down to dryness yields a very white, but low-strength soda-ash, as the soluble impurities of the original soda-ash are nearly all collected here; it is called ‘mother-alkali’.

1880—1910(Hide quotations)


  mother-and-babe adj. = mother-in-babe adj.

1928   G. Whiting Tools & Toys of Stitching 220   The Cow-and-Calf and Mother-and-Babe bobbins—they are a perfect, never-ending joy and a masterpiece of the Midlands!

1928—1928(Hide quotations)


  Mother Bell   n. see Bell n.5


  mother-bomb   n. Military rare a canister containing a cluster of explosive devices.

1971   New Scientist 21 Jan. 135/2   Shrapnel grenades..are dropped individually, or in clusters from canisters (‘mother-bombs’).

1971—1971(Hide quotations)


mother-borough   n.  [compare Old High German muoterburg] Obsolete rare the chief town or city of a country; = mother city n. 2a.

c1225  (?c1200)    St. Katherine (1973) 46   Þe moderburh of Alixandres riche.

c1225—c1225(Hide quotations)


  mother cell   n. Biology a cell that is undergoing or that has undergone cell division (esp. meiosis); a cell that is regarded as a precursor (of a particular structure, tissue, etc.).

1840   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 130 552 (note)    The process in question..consists first, in the foundations of young cells arising apparently in no other way than by divisions of the nucleus of a mother-cell.
1875   A. W. Bennett & W. T. T. Dyer tr. J. von Sachs Text-bk. Bot. 440   The pollen-grains, when free from their mother-cells, are unicellular and spherical.
1932   C. D. Darlington Rec. Adv. in Cytol. i. 5   In a ‘mother-cell’ two nuclear divisions follow one another rapidly while the chromosomes only divide once.
1992   M. Ingrouille Diversity & Evol. Land Plants 48   They give rise to a group of central mother cells from which regular files of small vacuolated cells arise, called rib meristem.

1840—1992(Hide quotations)


  mother clove   n. the fruit of the clove tree, Syzygium aromaticum, resembling a clove in appearance when dried, but less aromatic.

1690   S. Blankaart Lexicon Novum Medicum 41   Anthophylli... Angl. Mother cloves.
1693   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 17 952   I chose some of the largest Cloves I could find, called Mother-Cloves.
1861   R. Bentley Man. Bot. ii. iii. 553   The dried unripe fruits are called mother cloves; they are used in China and other countries as a spice.
1929   H. A. A. Nicholls & J. H. Holland Text-bk. Trop. Agric. (ed. 2) viii. 279   The ovaries covered with the lower part of the calyx then swell and form the fruit, which is a large ovoid purple berry, containing one or two seeds, and known as the ‘mother clove’.
1959   Chambers's Encycl. III. 667/1   If pollination and fertilization take place, the ovary [of the clove tree] develops into a juicy, purple berry called the ‘mother clove’.

1690—1959(Hide quotations)


  mother coal   n. = fusain n. 2.

1855   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 145 150   We have not hitherto found any tissue at all resembling that which occurs occasionally abundantly in bituminous coal, and is known as mineral charcoal and mother-coal.
1873   J. W. Dawson Story Earth & Man vi. 118   A dusty fibrous substance, like charcoal, called ‘mother-coal’ by miners.
1900   Western Mail 22 Mar.   He would have discarded a piece of coal which was shown to him as being unmarketable, because a thin line of what was termed ‘mother coal’ ran through it.
1975   Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. 1973 xlix. 43   Mother coal, a powdery charcoal substance found layered in the coal.

1855—1975(Hide quotations)


  mother complex   n. Psychoanalysis a complex (complex n. 3) of emotions aroused in a young boy by an unconscious sexual desire for his mother; cf. Oedipus complex n. at Oedipus n. Compounds 2.

1919   M. K. Bradby Psycho-anal. v. 59   If sexual fixation takes place at the third stage, the ‘mother-complex’ will create an obstacle to a man's happiness in married life.
1936   C. Day Lewis Friendly Tree i. vi. 87   He sucks a pipe constantly. The mother-complex. Infantilism.
1960   R. F. C. Hull tr. C. G. Jung Struct. & Dynamics of Psyche in Coll. Wks. (1966) VIII. v. 369   Analysis shows an infantile longing for the mother, a so-called mother complex.
1992   C. P. Estés Women who run with Wolves vi. 174   In Jungian psychology, this entire tangle is called the mother complex.

1919—1992(Hide quotations)


  mother cult   n. Cultural Anthropology the worship of a mother goddess.

1909   Westm. Gaz. 2 Feb. 5/1   From the trend of recent writings in Hindu literature it is suggested that the Mother cult has been revived.
1924   L. A. Waddell Phoenician Origin Britons 102   The chain of Van names.., seems evidenced by the following... All in the traditional area of the Matriarchic Mother-cult.
1998   Augusta (Georgia) Chron. (Nexis) 10 May a5   In the fifth century, devotion to the Virgin Mary emerged as a new Mother cult, with this Mother of God firmly replacing Cybele, the Mother of the Gods.

1909—1998(Hide quotations)


  mother-descent   n. rare descent on or through the mother's side.

1642   T. Fuller Holy State iv. xv. 313   Her royall birth by her Fathers side doth comparatively make her Mother-descent seem low.
1915   Jrnl. Royal Anthropol. Inst. 131   He believed there was no division into exogamous clans with mother-descent.

1642—1915(Hide quotations)


  mother dough   n. U.S. a portion of fermented dough set aside while making sourdough bread, used for starting a new batch; a bread starter.

1954   S. K. Hardy New Land needs Singing v. 48   Luella had made up a ‘sponge’ of mother dough into which she mixed sifted flour at the proper time to stiffen it up.
1987   Americana Sept. 42/1   When the Boudin bakers arrive in the early morning hours, they..mix globs of the mother dough with flour, salt, and water in large mechanized mixers.
2001   Sunday Tel. (Nexis) 12 Aug. 4   Our friends had brought the mother dough for the self-fermenting San Franciscan sourdough bread that they make at home, which sat sullenly in the kitchen waiting to be fed.
2016   R. FitzRoy tr. R. Renneberg et al. Biotechnol. for Beginners (ed. 2) i. 21/3   Each bakery's mother dough, also known as the mother ‘sponge’, has been in continuous use since the respective bakery's founding, carefully maintained and replenished by generations of bakers.

1954—2016(Hide quotations)


  Mother English   n. the English language as a mother tongue or first language, spec. when viewed positively as a model of expression, esp. in terms of plainness and straightforwardness, or (later) with reference to Standard English as a model of correctness.

1816   W. Scott Old Mortality Peroration, in Tales of My Landlord 1st Ser. IV. 346   O, ignorance! as if the vernacular article of our mother English were capable of declension!
a1834   S. T. Coleridge Coll. Wks. (1998) XII. 717   Ludicrous as these introductory Scraps of French appear, so instantly followed by good nervous mother-english.
1873   Harper's Mag. Sept. 613/1   Scholars are more able to quote Demosthenes and Cicero than to make a stirring speech in their own mother English.
1910   W. de la Mare Three Mulla-mulgars 107   That's mother-English, that is! Now we's beginning to unnerstand one another.
1960   J. Barth Sot-weed Factor i. i. 13   Ebenezer Cooke..who, like his friends-in-folly..had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over.
1999   Herald (Glasgow) (Electronic ed.) 13 Jan.   The purism of Mother English breeds a corresponding Puritanism among the natives kicking against her clutches. If Soyinka was patronised in Cambridge, he has been vilified in Lagos for corrupting Yoruba culture by writing in English in the first place.

1816—1999(Hide quotations)


  mother figure   n. a person or thing endowed with some of the attributes of a mother, esp. an older woman who is seen as a source of nurture, support, etc.

1932   Man 32 285/2   The first origin of the Mother-figure goes back at least as far as the Aurignacian age.
1945   M. Klein Contrib. Psycho-anal. (1948) 346   The early splitting of the mother figure into a good and bad ‘breast mother’ as a way of dealing with ambivalence had been very marked.
1971   Daily Tel. 18 Jan. 10/7   The association also says there should be a ‘mother figure’ in each nursing school to whom students can turn for advice.
1997   P. Cornwell Unnatural Exposure v. 38   Lucy worships you. You're the only decent mother figure she's ever had.

1932—1997(Hide quotations)


  mother-fit   n. now historical = sense 9; usually in plural.

1657   P. Henry Diaries & Lett. (1882) 65   Mother-fits.
1681   N. Grew Musæum Regalis Societatis i. i. 4   A Thong hereof ty'd about the middle, is of good use..especially against Mother-Fits.
1939   M. Spring Rice Working-class Wives viii. 204   To brew..‘simples’ against ‘mother-fits’.
1942   Biometrika 32 205   He remembered that some women troubled with the Mother fits did complain of a choking in their throats.

1657—1942(Hide quotations)


  mother-fixated adj. fixated on one's mother, suffering from a mother fixation.

1943   Sociometry 6 358   She has one mother-fixated and mother-smothered daughter who is now in her thirties and is staging a mild and much-belated postadolescent rebellion.
1977   Gay News 7 Apr. 21/2   The power of the Jewish mother in the home has led some people to wonder if all Jewish men are not mother-fixated (and consequently gay!).
2000   Daily Tel. (Electronic ed.) 11 Sept.   Alan Cox is in wonderfully creepy form as the playboy, Charles Bruno, a mother-fixated psychopathic lush who hates his father.

1943—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother fixation   n. Psychoanalysis a fixation (fixation n. 3b) on one's mother.

1921   Internat. Jrnl. Psycho-anal. 2 55   Jesus is no longer satisfied to make Joseph his ideal (a hard task for a boy with a strong Mother-fixation of love).
1954   Sc. Jrnl. Theol. 7 393   Rationalism has handed the problem [of worship] over to the psychologist to explain in terms of repressions, mother-fixations, infantile-regressions and the like.
1982   Listener 23 Dec. 56/1   Grainger's mother-fixation is well known.
1992   L. S. Marcus Margaret Wise Brown 28   With a nod to popular concern over the dreaded ‘mother fixation’, she suggested that children might actually be better served by mothers with other interests to occupy them.

1921—1992(Hide quotations)


  mothergate   n.  [ < mother n.1 + gate n.2] Coal Mining English regional (north-eastern) the main passage in a series of mine workings, through which coal is conveyed to the surface.

1839   Penny Cycl. XV. 247   When the bord or ‘mother-gate’ has proceeded some distance on both sides of the pit [etc.].
1848   Eng. & Foreign Mining Gloss. (Newcastle Terms) 124   Mothergate, the bord along which the coals are trammed from a district of workings.
1942   Penguin New Writing 12 95   At last they came to the end of the long, low mothergate which follows the coal-face.

1839—1942(Hide quotations)


  Mother General n. Christian Church a female head of a religious order (cf. sense 3a).

1865   Catholic World June 311   I have begged our mother-general to allow the 200 francs which you were so good as to send us for postage, to be devoted to the first expenses of the chapel.
1924   B. Camm (title)    Mother Mary of St Peter. Foundress and first mother-general of the nuns of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre (Tyburn).
1991   M. Binchy Circle of Friends (BNC) 38   She had certainly been up every road as far as the Order was concerned. She had written to the Mother General.
2000   Herald (Glasgow) (Electronic ed.) 20 Sept.   The Congregation of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth was founded in London in 1865 by Cardinal Wiseman and Mother St Basil, the first Mother General of the Congregation.

1865—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother hen   n. figurative a person, organization, etc., that takes care of others, esp. in an overprotective manner.

1873   Littell's Living Age 1 Mar. 533/2   Dürten will go with you; she is always ready to be mother-hen to the little chicken.
1952   N.Y. Times 23 Aug. 20/2   The General Tire and Rubber Company announced today the formation of a Government-approved ‘mother hen’ holding company to help smaller concerns get war orders.
1977   Time 19 Dec. 9/2   She also served as mother hen for Portuguese contingents in their travels to international beauty contests.
2000   Mirror (Electronic ed.) 14 Aug.   Titus Bramble gave a titanic show for Ipswich in their 1-1 draw with Fiorentina at Portman Road and then paid tribute to his ‘mother hen’ John Scales, the 34-year-old ex-England defender.

1873—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother house   n. the founding house of a religious order.

1661   Manifest Gen. Chapter Catholick Eng. Clergy 3   Dr. Leyburn does calumniate us, as being Enemies to our Mother-house, the Colledge of Doway.
a1773   A. Butler Lives Saints (1779) III. 243   When in 1504 the abbey of Mount Cassino joined this Congregation, it took the name of this mother-house.
1840   K. H. Digby Mores Catholici x. i. 9   Cisteaux, the mother house of the order, [was] founded..in 1098... La Ferté was the first branch house.
1932   C. P. Curran in F. J. Sheed Irish Way 269   In this spirit she worked for ten years in the Mother-house and novitiate.
1999   M. Greenwood et al. Ireland: Rough Guide ii. xvi. 559   The Cistercian order, of which Mellifont was the mother house in Ireland.

1661—1999(Hide quotations)


mother-idea   n.  [after French idée mère (1745)] Obsolete an idea regarded as giving rise to or being fundamental to something.

1821   P. S. Du Ponceau Let. in M. O. Pickering Life John Pickering (1887) 313   This is a mother-idea that will create a new title in philological literature.
1858   O. W. Holmes Autocrat of Breakfast-table x. 270   There is a mother-idea in each particular kind of tree, which, if well marked, is probably embodied in the poetry of every language.
1873   Appletons' Jrnl. Aug. 237/2   I can fancy myself in the caverns where the archetypical ideas—the mother ideas, as Goethe calls them—wove the web of life.

1821—1873(Hide quotations)


  mother image   n. an ideal or archetypal mother figure; (Psychoanalysis) = mother imago n.

1923   Amer. Jrnl. Sociol. 29 250   He..fails, because of the mother-image, to establish satisfactory relations with the other sex.
1941   L. MacNeice Poetry of Yeats vii. 138   It would be tempting to regard Cathleen ni Houlihan, the Poor Old Woman, as a mother image and so to refer much of Irish nationalism to a mother-fixation.
1973   J. Singer Boundaries of Soul iv. 91   The Mother image appeared under strange circumstances to my analysand Margaret.
1996   A. Theroux Secondary Colors 175   A middle-aged male gay twanker walking arm-in-arm with another mother image.

1923—1996(Hide quotations)


  mother imago   n. Psychoanalysis the mental or realized image of an idealized or archetypal mother.

1916   B. M. Hinkle tr. C. G. Jung Psychol. of Unconscious v. 250   That amount of libido which unconsciously is fastened to the mother-imago.
1956   R. F. C. Hull tr. C. G. Jung Symbols of Transformation in Coll. Wks. V. ii. v. 222   The water and tree symbolism..likewise refer to the libido that is unconsciously attached to the mother-imago.
1991   Paragraph July 162   The idealization of the father is more correctly seen as the result of the splitting of the mother imago into one good and one bad part, where the image of the ‘good mother’ is projected on to the father, and the mother is cast as the repository for all that is evil.

1916—1991(Hide quotations)


  mother-in-babe adj. designating a wooden bobbin with a hollow shank which contains another smaller bobbin.

1919   T. Wright Romance of Lace Pillow xiii. 126   Mother-in-Babe Bobbins, in the hollowed shank of which a tiny wooden bobbin rattles.
1969   E. H. Pinto Treen xxi. 311   Collectively, they are known as church window bobbins, but those with smaller bobbins inside the windows are described as mother-in-babe types.
1994   Lace 76 40/2   David Springett also laid to rest the myth that mother-in-babe bobbins were made by boiling the bone to soften it so that the ‘babe’ could be slid inside.

1919—1994(Hide quotations)


  mother kingdom   n. now historical a kingdom in relation to its colonies or dependencies; (also, occasionally) an original or earlier kingdom from which another develops.

1690   J. Child Disc. Trade x. 178   Where there is little Manufacturing,..the profit of Plantations, viz. the greatest part thereof will not redound to the Mother-Kingdom.
1726   J. Swift Gulliver II. iv. xii. 348   Their Caution in stocking their Provinces with People of sober Lives and Conversations from this the Mother Kingdom.
1897   Atlantic Monthly Apr. 529/2   It had its dawn more than three hundred years ago in the struggle of the little mother kingdom with the colossal power of Spain.
1998   An Scathan (Nexis) 30 Apr. s6   Before the end of the 6th century, about A.D. 595, the colony achieved complete independence from the Irish mother kingdom.

1690—1998(Hide quotations)


  mother liquid   n. = mother liquor n.

1830   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 120 57   The solution obtained is to be precipitated by a strong solution of muriate of ammonia; a bright yellow pulverulent substance will fall, and a mother liquid..remain.
1848   G. Fownes Man. Elem. Chem. (ed. 2) iii. 544   The mother-liquid from flesh from which the kreatine has been deposited contains, among other things, a new acid, the inosinic, the aqueous solution of which refuses to crystallize.
1936   Amer. Home Feb. 86/4   When the raw sugar is crystallized out of the sugar cane juice, a mother liquid is left. Concentrated and clarified, this is molasses, of which there are different grades according to the amount of sugar taken out.
1995   Molecular & Cellular Biochem. 153 25   The stability towards decomposition in solid state, mother-liquid and pure water solutions.

1830—1995(Hide quotations)


  mother liquor   n. the liquid remaining after a dissolved substance has crystallized out.

?1698   in D. R. Hainsworth Corr. J. Lowther (1983) 700   The refining liquer is caled the mother liquer.
1783   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 73 17   [They] afford no crystals, but only a magma or mother liquor.
1865–72   H. Watts Dict. Chem. III. 316   The mother-liquor of the iridium-salt.
1890   W. de W. Abney Photogr. (ed. 6) 73   The mother liquor may be employed for intensifying.
1952   H. Diehl & G. F. Smith Quantitative Anal. ii. 33   Precipitates that occlude the mother liquor seriously should be dissolved.
1994   Jrnl. Molecular Biol. 236 990   Electron micrographs of mechanically disintegrated crystals show that the inside of the protein cluster is filled with the mother liquor.

?1698—1994(Hide quotations)


  mother-love n.  (a) love for one's mother (obsolete);  (b) maternal love.

OE   Vercelli Homilies (1992) i. 36   ‘Þis is þin modor, & þu hie þe for modor hafa.’ & he þa, Iohanne[s], swa dyde, & he hie þa in moderlufan hæfde.
1683   F. Willis et al. tr. Anacreon done into Eng. 66   All [the young ones] gape for Food, and All The Mother Love with chirpings call.
1843   T. Westwood Beads from Rosary 27   A love to equal that sweet mother-love of thine.
1857   T. J. Powis Uriel xi. 106   All things rest,..Lulled in Mary's mother-love.
1915   C. P. Gilman Herland in Forerunner May 128/1   The power of mother-love, that maternal instinct we so highly laud, was theirs of course, raised to its highest power.
1989   Independent 9 May 14 (heading)    Victims of the perverse side of motherlove.

OE—1989(Hide quotations)


  mother-lye   n. now historical the mother liquor of an alkali (also figurative).

1756   F. Home Exper. Bleaching 25   Out of their first or mother lye, the second..is made in this manner.
1800   Med. & Physical Jrnl. 3 82   These mother-leys still contain a certain quantity of caustic soda.
c1865   J. Wylde Circle of Sci. I. 331/2   The fluid from which crystals are precipitated is called mother-lye.
1921   Sci. Monthly Aug. 111   The primal impulse by which worlds evolved out of chaos, nebulae or any other mother-lye.

1756—1921(Hide quotations)


  mother-maid   n.  [compare Middle Dutch moedermaget, Middle High German muotermaget] now rare (poetic in later use) the Virgin Mary.

c1390   G. Chaucer Prioress's Tale 1657   O moder mayde! O mayde moder free!
1605   J. Sylvester tr. G. de S. Du Bartas Triumph of Faith in tr. Deuine Weekes & Wks. 569   That Mother-Maide, Who Sier-les bore her Sire, yet euer-Maid.
1612   J. Donne Second Anniuersarie 32 in First Anniuersarie   Where thou shalt see the blessed Mother-maid.
1835   W. Wordsworth Russ. Fugitive iii. v, in Yarrow Revisited 135   The Mother-maid whose countenance bright With love abridged the day.
1840   F. H. C. Doyle Misc. Verses 166   They fall together on their knees, With one short thrilling prayer for aid, To the good saints..And the blest mother-maid.
1911   E. Nesbit Ballads & Verses Spiritual Life 61   The Christ, the Mother-Maid, The incense of the hearts that praised and prayed.

c1390—1911(Hide quotations)


  mother-maiden   n. now rare (poetic in later use) = mother-maid n.

c1450  (?c1425)    St. Mary of Oignies ii. ii, in Anglia (1885) 8 173 (MED)   He [sc. Christ] schewed hym..in Criste-masse lyke a childe soukynge þe pappes of þe moder-mayden.
1869   ‘G. Eliot’ Agatha in Atlantic Monthly Aug. 207   Holy Gabriel, lily-laden, Bless the aged mother-maiden.
1875   S. Evans In Studio 124   Mother-Maiden! The Hope of the Woman! The Woman through whom was the Word!
1911   E. Nesbit Ballads & Verses of Spiritual Life 85   Have pity on me—Mother-maiden sweet.

c1450—1911(Hide quotations)


  mother mark   n. now rare a birthmark (cf. mother's mark n. at Compounds 5b).

1822   J. M. Good Study Med. IV. 682   These [moles] differ essentially from nævi or genuine mother-marks.
1904   Special Rep. Dis. Cattle (U.S. Dept. Agric. Bureau Animal Industry) 265   The angiomas are tumors composed mainly of blood vessels or blood spaces and are observed on the skin of man, where they are called ‘birthmarks’ or ‘mother marks’.

1822—1904(Hide quotations)


  mother-metal   n.  [after mother liquor] Metallurgy rare a solid mass of metals or alloy left after some of a metal has separated out by crystallization.

1902   Encycl. Brit. XXIX. 573/2   By which time so much iron has separated out that the remaining mother-metal has reached the composition of hardenite.

1902—1902(Hide quotations)


  Mother Midnight   n. slang (now historical) (a name for) a midwife; (also, occasionally) a woman in charge of a brothel.

1602   F. Herring tr. J. Oberndorf Anatomyes True Physition 11   One while hee playeth the Apothecarie, other whiles serueth in stead of Mother Midnight.
1636   W. Sampson Vow Breaker sig. H2   Well drunck Mother mid-night.
1699   B. E. New Dict. Canting Crew   Mother Midnight, a Midwife (often a Bawd).
1722   D. Defoe Moll Flanders 196   I really did not understand her, but my Mother Midnight began very seriously to explain what she meant.
1752   W. Kenrick Parodi-tragi-comical Satire i. 5   Here a poor Birth-strangled Babe, Ditch-deliver'd by a Drab; Child of Poverty and Spleen, Mother Midnight's Magazine.
1786   ‘A. Pasquin’ Royal Academicians 14   Mother Midnight, have you washed the large table-cloth?
1988   18th-cent. Stud. 22 265   A fully realized Mother Midnight, this bawd..personifies the fate that attends the reproductive body.

1602—1988(Hide quotations)


  mother mould   n. Sculpture a rigid mould which holds casting material.

1898   C. R. Ashbee tr. B. Cellini Treat. Goldsmithing & Sculpt. 116   Put them into the cavities..in the mould... Or ‘mother mould’ as the sculptors would call it.
1947   J. C. Rich Materials & Methods Sculpt. v. 100   A heavily bodied plaster mix can be applied over the agar impression to form a mother mold or casing.
1969   R. Mayer Dict. Art Terms & Techniques 254/1   Mother mold, an outer case or container for a negative mold made of gelatin, rubber, or another weak, flexible substance. The mother mold is made of a rigid material.
1985   San Diego Union-Tribune (Nexis) 15 Sept. f18   The latex is covered with a reinforcing material to make a ‘mother mold’.

1898—1985(Hide quotations)


  mother nation   n.  (a) a nation in relation to its colonies or dependencies; a nation from which others evolved;  (b) a nation in which something originated.

1622   F. Bacon Advt. Holy Warre in Wks. (1879) I. 529/1   There are other bands of society, and implicit confederations. That of colonies, or transmigrants, towards their mother nation.
1757   M. Postlethwayt Great Britain's True Syst. x. 267   To the Advantage of..the general Prosperity of their Colonies, in Conjunction with that of their Mother-nation.
1897   A. Drucker tr. R. J. von Ihering Evol. Aryan 20   The endeavour of Indologians to attribute the highest possible degree of civilization to the mother-nation.
1942   Ethics 52 142   Outlying territories that have come under the control of the mother-nation.
2001   Daily Tel. (Nexis) 12 Apr. 42   The memories of Ecuador's extraordinary victory over the mother nation of tennis on their most hallowed territory, Wimbledon, last July, came flooding back.

1622—2001(Hide quotations)


  Mother Nature   n. see sense 4f.


mother-pian   n. Obsolete rare a mother yaw.

1898   P. Manson Trop. Dis. xxvii. 428 (note)    A large persistent yaw is sometimes known as the ‘mother’, ‘grandmother’ or ‘mama-pian’.

1898—1898(Hide quotations)


  mother plane   n. originally U.S. an aircraft which launches, controls, or tends another aircraft (in quot. 1999   with reference to a spacecraft; cf. mother ship n.2).

1936   Sun (Baltimore) 6 July 9/1   Progress on the pick-a-back airplane, a combination in which a ‘mother’ plane will carry on its back a smaller long range seaplane for ‘launching’ at high altitude is more secret.
1945   Time 19 Nov. 52/2   Everything it sees is projected by radio on a screen in the mother plane.
1977   C. Thomas Firefox (1978) vi. 159   He will not refuel in the air—we would know if some mother-plane were waiting for him over neutral or hostile sky.
1999   N.Y. Rev. Bks. 10 June 52/4   A wheel-shaped spaceship..called the Mother Plane..carrying fifteen hundred smaller ships.

1936—1999(Hide quotations)


  mother plant   n. a plant that is the source of seed (or ovules), seedlings, or vegetative propagules.

1656   H. More Antidote Atheism App. xi. 364   Now this regular conformation of the seed came from the uniforme motion of particles in the Mother-plant.
1707   J. Mortimer Whole Art Husbandry (1721) II. 48   I think those raised by Layers from a Mother-plant make the best Trees.
1868   C. Darwin Variation Animals & Plants II. xxvii. 365   Foreign pollen occasionally affects the mother-plant in a direct manner.
1928   Jrnl. Heredity 19 263/1   This newly discovered action of pollen on the ovarial tissues of the mother plant.
1990   Gardening from Which? July 238/4   Peg down runners..into 15 cm (6 in) pots sunk into the ground around the mother plants.

1656—1990(Hide quotations)


mother queller   n. Obsolete rare a matricide.

▸ 1440   Promptorium Parvulorum (Harl. 221) 341   Modyr qwellare,..matricida.

1440—1440(Hide quotations)


mother quelling   n. Obsolete rare matricide.

▸ 1440   Promptorium Parvulorum (Harl. 221) 341   Modur qwellynge, matricidium.

1440—1440(Hide quotations)


  mother root   n. Botany a primary or main root, from which lateral roots grow.

1615   H. Peacham Prince Henrie Reuived sig. C3   An Aprill Impe that late did shoot, From the warme bosome of its Mother root.
1664   J. Evelyn Sylva 3   Dropp'd, and disseminated amongst the..perplexities of the mother roots.
1727   S. J. Vineyard 122   As being nourished from its own mother-Root.
1882   S. H. Vines tr. J. von Sachs Text-bk. Bot. (ed. 2) 166   The origin of lateral roots in a mother-root is always on the outside of its axial fibrovascular or plerome-cylinder.
1938   Bot. Gaz. 99 504   The pericycle of the mother root gave rise to the stele of the lateral root.
1993   Plant & Soil 153 126/1   Each new primordium will either stay at a very early stage..or continue its development and transform into a young rootlet which will bore through the mother-root epidermis.

1615—1993(Hide quotations)


  mother skein   n. Cell Biology now disused the prophase configuration of chromosomes.

1889   Q. Jrnl. Microsc. Sci. 30 171   We call this stage, with Flemming, the ‘Knäuel-Stadium’ (skein stage), or ‘spirem’, or ‘mother-skein’.
1906   Bot. Gaz. 41 187   The daughter chromosomes..are transformed into the mother skein of the second division rather rapidly.

1889—1906(Hide quotations)


mother-spar   n. Obsolete the matrix of an ore.

1681   N. Grew Musæum Regalis Societatis iii. i. v. 306   The Mother-Spar of the Tin-Ore.

1681—1681(Hide quotations)


mother spot   n. Obsolete a birthmark (cf. mother's mark n. at Compounds 5b).

1690   S. Blankaart Lexicon Novum Medicum 388   Macula Matricalis, the mother spot.
1823   Lancet 19 Oct. 78/2   For nœvus maternus (vulgarly called mother spot) of the under lip.
1827   Medico-chirurg. Trans. 13 421 (note)    The conspicuous congenital malformations..are called nævi materni, to which the expressions, congenitæ notæ, mother spots,..are synonymous.

1690—1827(Hide quotations)


  mother star   n. Cell Biology now disused the metaphase configuration of chromosomes; = monaster n.

1887   Amer. Naturalist 21 150   Then the outer limbs of the loops break, leaving a lot of V-shaped filaments having their apices towards a common centre. This is the ‘mother-star’.
1898   Science 18 Feb. 223/1   The centrosomes..fragment into a number of centrosome granules, one of which remains as the centrosomes of the later stages (mother star and later).
1904   Bot. Gaz. 37 201   The chromosomes in the stage of the mother star in vegetative cell division have mostly the figure of J-forming threads.

1887—1904(Hide quotations)


  mother-starter   n. a stock culture of starter bacteria, used in the production of various dairy products.

1906   G. L. McKay & C. Larsen Princ. & Pract. Butter-making 217   The sample which coagulates into a smooth uniform curd, and has a pleasant acid taste and smell is selected and used as a mother-starter.
1920   W. Clayton Margarine 48   The milk is soured by inoculation after pasteurization with suitable quantities of pure cultures, these in turn having been made from a specially-cared-for ‘mother-starter’.
1927   T. P. Hilditch Industr. Chem. Fats & Waxes 254   More of the pasteurized milk is then inoculated with about 3–6 per cent. of the mother-starter.

1906—1927(Hide quotations)


mother stone   n. Obsolete  (a) a type of stone (not identified);  (b) a rock from which another rock is derived by structural or chemical change, a parent rock;  (c) the matrix of an ore or mineral.

1442   in R. Willis & J. W. Clark Archit. Hist. Univ. Cambr. (1886) I. 386   Cariage of xviij lodis of modrestone.
1777   A. Young in A. Hunter et al. Georgical Ess. (new ed.) ii. iv. 391   Its abounding with the stone, called, in Hertfordshire, Mother-stone, (a concretion of many small blue pebbles).
1794   R. Kirwan Elements Mineral. (ed. 2) I. 433   Granite..is the mother-stone, by whose fusion basalt is produced.
1799   J. Robertson Gen. View Agric. Perth 17   Which some farmers call motherstone soil.
1855   J. R. Leifchild Cornwall: Mines & Miners 91   Quartz generally prevails in the matrix (mother stone).

1442—1855(Hide quotations)


  mother-substitute   n. a person who or thing which takes the place of the mother.

1933   Jrnl. Educ. Sociol. 6 388   The teacher is apt to become a mother substitute, a father substitute, or a condensation of both.
1965   F. Sargeson Mem. Peon vi. 173   Two young sparrow-legged ruffians..engaged in selling my mother-substitute a large trolley-load of empty bottles.
1990   Bull. Hispanic Stud. 67 351   Jane Hawking examined the character of Celestina as a mother-substitute.

1933—1990(Hide quotations)


mother suppository   n. Obsolete a vaginal pessary.

1578   H. Lyte tr. R. Dodoens Niewe Herball i. lxxxviii. 130   Pessarie (whiche is a mother suppositorie).
1597   J. Gerard Herball i. 145   Vsed in maner of a pessarie or mother suppositorie.

1578—1597(Hide quotations)


  mother surrogate   n. a mother-substitute.

1932   Jrnl. Educ. Sociol. 6 137   Some one..should be ready to assume the function of big brother or sister, or of father or mother surrogate.
1959   Science 21 Aug. 422/3   We took the calculated risk of constructing and using inanimate mother surrogates rather than real mothers.
1985   G. Paley Later Same Day 87   We all require a mother or mother-surrogate to fix our pillows.

1932—1985(Hide quotations)


  mother-symbol   n.  (a) something which symbolically marks the beginning of a body, organization, etc. (in quot. 1852   with reference to the Augsburg Confession) (obsolete);  (b) (as a term in various academic disciplines) a thing which stands as a symbol of the mother or of motherhood.

1852   S. S. Schucker Amer. Lutheran Church 203   To this substantial recognition of the mother symbol of Protestantism, the General synod still adheres.
1926   Jrnl. Royal Anthropol. Inst. 59 191   The tree is a mother-symbol.
1956   R. F. C. Hull tr. C. G. Jung Symbols of Transformation in Coll. Wks. V. 301   At this stage the mother-symbol..points towards the unconscious as the creative matrix of the future.
1987   MLN 102 299   One who relates to her as a woman rather than an idealized mother-symbol.

1852—1987(Hide quotations)


mother-thought   n. Obsolete rare = mother-idea n.

1861   J. L. Motley Let. 19 Apr. in Corr. (1889) I. xiii. 368   As to the mother-thought of the book, it is to me original.

1861—1861(Hide quotations)


mother-thyme   n. Obsolete mother of thyme.

1737   Compl. Family-piece (ed. 2) i. iv. 254   Take..Agrimony, Mother-thyme,..Roman Wormwood, Carduus Benedictus.

1737—1737(Hide quotations)


  mother tincture   n. Homoeopathy an undiluted tincture of a drug.

1842   F. Black Treat. Princ. & Pract. Homœopathy vi. 72   The alcohol..employed for the preparation of tinctures (mother tinctures, as they are called) should be nearly anhydrous.
1880   Appletons' Jrnl. Nov. 479/2   To put the mother-tincture through thirty decimal dilutions.
1902   Encycl. Brit. XXIX. 312/2   The pure tinctures are denominated ‘mother tinctures’.
1983   B. Inglis & R. West Alternative Health Guide 71   Once the ‘mother tincture’ has been diluted to the required potency and ‘succussed’ (shaken up), a few drops are introduced into a small bottle.
2000   Here's Health May 17/3   Extracts of the chosen ingredient are dissolved in a mixture of alcohol and water..then strained to make what is called the ‘mother tincture’.

1842—2000(Hide quotations)


  mother wasp   n. now rare a queen wasp (in quot. 1679, interpreted as a male wasp).

1609   C. Butler Feminine Monarchie iv. sig. D7   In their last brood, which is in Scorpio..they haue..drones or male-wasps..and mother-wasps.
1679   M. Rusden Further Discov. Bees 4   The Male among Wasps, which some call the Mother-Wasp, stings more venemously than the common Wasp doth.
1692   J. Ray Wisdom of God (ed. 2) i. 114   One great Mother-wasp..lying hid in some hollow Tree, or other Latibulum.
1886   Science 5 Feb. 128/2   The mother-wasp..knows the kind of an egg she is to lay.
1927   F. Balfour-Browne Insects viii. 188   The mother wasp burrows in the ground or in decaying vegetable material or rotten wood in search of the larvæ of chafer beetles.
1988   Jrnl. Animal Ecol. 57 164   Eggs are laid, and larvae develop, in small groups on the outside of hosts which have been paralysed by the mother wasp.

1609—1988(Hide quotations)


mother-water   n. Obsolete = mother liquor n.

1651   J. French Art Distillation 61   The Mother-water commonly called Hystericall Water is made thus.
1665   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 1 46   They let it run through Pipes into the Kettles, adding to it half as much Mother-water, which is that water, that remains after boyling of the hardened Coperas.
1758   A. Reid tr. P. J. Macquer Elements Theory & Pract. Chym. I. 245   All saline solutions in general, after having yielded a certain quantity of crystals, grow thick, and refuse to part with any more, though they still contain much Salt. They are called Mother-waters.
1854   J. Scoffern in Orr's Circle Sci., Chem. 14   To clear away from any crystalline product the mother-water.
1883   R. Haldane Workshop Receipts 2nd Ser. 350/1   The mother-liquor is conducted through the pipe for mother-water to the precipitators.

1651—1883(Hide quotations)


mother-wool   n. Obsolete rare wool from the back and neck of a fleece.

1728   E. Chambers Cycl. at Wool   The French and English usually separate each Fleece into three Sorts; viz. 1. Mother-Wool, which is that of the Back and Neck.

1728—1728(Hide quotations)


  mother yaw   n. Medicine a large, persistent skin lesion in an endemic treponematosis; esp. the primary lesion of yaws (cf. mama-pian n.; mamma-yaw n.).

1822   J. M. Good Study Med. II. 675   The master-fungus being named [in St Domingo] mama-pian, or mother-yaw.
1890   J. S. Billings National Med. Dict. II. 107/1   Mamanpian, the initial growth in yaws; the mother-yaw.
1996   G. C. Cook Manson's Trop. Dis. (ed. 20) liv. 941/1   After an average incubation period of 21 days the initial or primary lesion (‘mother yaw’) appears at the site of entry of the organisms.

1822—1996(Hide quotations)




  ˈmotherwards adv. towards one's mother.

1893   Tablet 15 July 110   It does not forbid the dying son to cast his eyes motherwards.

1893—1893(Hide quotations)


  ˈmotherwise adv. in a motherly fashion.

1890   R. Le Gallienne G. Meredith 52   She smiles on them motherwise.
1910   W. J. Locke Simon Jester xix. 241   With strong shapely arms that had as yet only held me motherwise.
1914   W. J. Locke Fortunate Youth x. 142   And if a woman of that age cannot fall in love with a boy sweetly mother-wise, what is the good of her?
a1974   L. Durrell Coll. Poems (1985) 17   Will you remember it and, mother-wise Thank me in these chill after-days When I am empty-handed?

1890—a1974(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, December 2002; most recently modified version published online March 2023).

In this entry:

In other dictionaries: