By Bhaskara Sharma 7 Minutes Read


A person is referred to as a child[i] from the time of their birth until they are an adult. A son or daughter of any age is a child[ii] of their parents. A person’s natural offspring is a child[iii]


In the wider sense child[iv] is used to refer a young person before the onset of puberty it is developed from the late 1200 century from Old English. It is also associated with phrases like with child which means a woman is pregnant. The sense extension from infant to a child[v] also is found in French enfant, Latin infans which means one’s, own child. It means the offspring of parents. The word child also has a figurative use from 1400 century onwards. Most Indo-European languages use the same word for a child and one’s child, though there are exceptions (such as Latin liberi/pueri).


Apart from the literal meaning of child, this word is extensively used in different laws in the country, majorly around child labor, child marriage, etc. The definition of the word child[vi] according to Indian laws is ambiguous and is interpreted differently in different laws and statutes.

As per 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the definition of a child is an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years. In India, different laws define the words child and minor differently, hence it is very important to look for the definition every-time when and relate the context.

According to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 – a child is defined as a person who has not completed 14 years of age. This act also prohibits employing children in 65 processes and 18 occupations, because such occupation is viewed to be hazardous for children and affects the physical well-being, these occupations include beedi-making, tanning, and brick kilns.

Other laws that deal with child rights such as trafficking, marriage, and juvenile justice have variable definitions of a minimum age of the child.

According to the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 definition for a child, adolescent and adult. According to it, a child means a person who has not completed his fifteenth year. Adolescent means a person who has completed his fifteenth year but has not completed his eighteenth year whereas adult means a person who has completed his eighteenth year.

According to the Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act 1966, Motor Transport Workers Act 1961 both define a child to be a person who has not completed 14 & 15 years of age respectively.

According to the matrimonial laws such as Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 add to the confusion. It states that a male cannot attain the majority until he is 21 years of age and the corresponding age for a female is 18. The recent ruling by the Delhi High Court that a Muslim girl can marry without the consent of her parents when she attains the age of puberty has done little to address such complications.

According to the prevention of Offences Against the Child Bill, 2009, under this, a child has been defined as a person who has not completed the age of 18 years.

Hence according to law, the definition of child gains the essence from the age and any other factor.

Some historic usage:

  • In 1963 used as Child abuse 
    • In 1950 used as child-molester. 
    • In 1915 used as Child care. 
    • In the late 1400 century as Child’s play, as a figurative of something easy.

Some usage in a sentence:

  • Merlin had to drag her child away from the toy shop.
    • The eldest child of Jack is nearly 14.
    • Marry got four children, all are under the age of five.
    • The children are always hungry when they get home after playing sports.
    • Ben don’t be so silly – you’re acting like a child!


Originated[vii] in the late 1200 century from the old English world child having a meaning fetus, infant, unborn or newly born person. The Middle English plural is childer or childre became children or children by association with plurals ending in -en, such as brethren.



[iii] The Free Dictionary [Internet]. “child”. Collins Dictionary of Law, W.J. Stewart, 2006 [cited 13 Jun. 2020]. Available from:

[iv] The Free Dictionary [Internet]. “child”. A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. 1856 [cited 13 Jun. 2020]. Available from:

[v] “Child.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2020.



Bhaskara Sharma

Pursuing BA-LLB from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad. I find peace in wandering through the new roads and capturing those moments through my camera. To keep myself creative I do content creation in the form of pictures and videos (photography and cinematography), I find pleasure in meeting and finding the best in people. Apart from my work, I also take great pleasure in listening to music, playing Lawn Tennis and enjoying travelling to different countries.

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