Definition for MOTH'ER

MOTH'ER, n. [Sax. moder; D. moeder, mother, and modder, mud; baar-moeder, the womb; moer, mother, dam, womb, lees; moerspul, hysterics; (moer seems to be a contraction of moeder;) moeder-naakt, stark naked; G. mutter, mother, and the thick slimy concretion in vinegar; bärmutter, the womb or matrix; mutter-fieber, a hysteric fit; mutter-lamm and mutter-schaf, a ewe or female sheep; mutter-flecken and mutter-mahl, a mole; mutter-pferd, a mare, the female of the horse kind; mutter-schiede, the vagina; mutter-nackt, stark naked; moder, mud, mold. Sw. moder, mother; vin-moder, mother of wine; moder-fall, prolapsus uteri; moderlif, the womb or matrix. Dan. moder, mother; moderskeede, the vagina; moderen i quinder, the matrix; modder or mudder, mud. Ir. mathair, a mother, and matter, pus. Gr. ματηρ, mother, and μητρα, matrix. L. mater, mother; matrix, the womb; materia, matter, stuff, materials of which any thing is made. It. madre, mother, cause, origin, root, spring, a mold or form for castings; matera or materia, matter, subject, cause; matrice, the matrix. Sp. madre, mother, matrix, womb, the bed of a river, a sink or sewer; madriz, matrix; materia, matter, purulent running. Port. madre, a mother, the matrix, the channel of a river; materia, matter, pus. Pers. مَادَرْ madar, a mother. Sans. mada, madra, meddra or mata, mother. Russ. mat, mater, mother; matka, a female, a matrix. Fr. mere, mother, contracted from the Latin. W. madrez, matter, purulent discharge. We observe that in some other languages, as well as in English, the same word signifies a female parent, and the thick slime formed in vinegar; and in all the languages of Europe here cited, the orthography is nearly the same as that of mud and matter. The question then occurs whether the name of a female parent originated in a word expressing matter, mold; either the soil of the earth, as the producer, or the like substance, when shaped and fitted as a mold for castings; or whether the name is connected with the opinion that the earth is the mother of all productions; whence the word mother-earth. We are informed by a fragment of Sanchoniathon, that the ancient Phenicians considered mud, μωτ; to be the substance from which all things were formed. See Mud. The word matter is evidently from the Ar. مَدَّ madda, to secrete, eject or discharge a purulent substance; and I think can not have any direct connection with mud. But in the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, the same word madre signifies mother, and a mold for castings; and the northern languages, particularly the German and Danish, seem to establish the fact that the proper sense of mother is matrix. Hence mother of pearl, the matrix of pearl. If this word had its origin in the name of the earth used for the forms of castings, it would not be a singular fact; for our word mold, in this sense, I suppose to be so named from mold, fine earth. The question remains sub judice.]

  1. A female parent; especially, one of the human race; a woman who has borne a child; correlative to son or daughter.
  2. That which has produced any thing. Alas, poor country, it can not / Be called our mother, but our grave. Shak. So our native land is called mother country, and a plant from which a slip or cion is taken, is called the mother plant. In this use, mother may be considered as an adjective.
  3. That which has preceded in time; the oldest or chief of any thing; as, a mother-church.
  4. Hysterical passion. [Not used.] Graunt.
  5. A familiar term of address or appellation of an old woman or matron.
  6. An appellation given to a woman who exercises care and tenderness toward another, or gives parental advice; as, when one says, a "woman has been a mother to me."
  7. A thick slimy substance concreted in liquors, particularly in vinegar, very different from scum or common lees.

Return to page 131 of the letter “M”.