by Liz Walter
Over the last couple of months I’ve written about words and phrases for being old or old-fashioned, so now it’s time to look at the opposite. I’ll start with expressions connected with being young.
We often describe very young children as small or little: There were lots of little children at the show. A small child sat alone in the corner. However, to talk about someone’s younger brother or sister, you always need to use little, not ‘small’: That’s Brad’s little sister.
Several words connected with being young have a double meaning – a literal one and a disapproving one. Childish, for instance, can either mean ‘suitable for or like a child’ or ‘silly and not appropriate for an adult’: These books are too childish for Mia. His behaviour was very childish. Babyish is used in a similar way: The toys were a bit babyish. It’s babyish to cry like that. Childlike can be positive, meaning that someone is innocent, happy and enthusiastic, or more negative, meaning that they are naïve and trust other people too much: They showed a childlike enthusiasm for the task. He had a childlike belief that people were honest.
The rather formal word juvenile can be used in official contexts to refer to a young person, or in the same disapproving way as ‘childish’ and ‘babyish’: She works with juvenile offenders. Her juvenile comments were very unhelpful. Juvenile can also be used as a noun in legal contexts: She was still a juvenile at the time of the crime. Immature is most commonly used in its disapproving sense, but also in more scientific contexts to describe plants or animals that are not fully grown: He’s rather immature for his age. There are strict rules about the sale of immature animals.
The word youthful is always positive and is used to describe something that is typical of young people, though it can be used admiringly of older people too: They were full of youthful excitement. She’s a very youthful seventy-year-old.
Finally, a couple of colourful idioms. If we want to say that a young person lacks experience, we can describe them as wet behind the ears: He was still a bit wet behind the ears in those days. And in a rather sweet, though slightly old-fashioned, phrase we might describe a small child as being knee-high to a grasshopper: The last time I saw you, you were knee-high to a grasshopper!
In my next post, I’ll be looking at words for talking about things that are modern or new.
30 thoughts on “Knee-high to a grasshopper: words and phrases that mean ‘young’.”
Thanks for such a great words or phrases.
This site genuinely helps to enhance the english.
Can i find out old blogs from this site? Is any particular way in this regards?
Thank you! Yes, just click on my name at the top for old posts!
No, sorry, click on my name in the panel on the right hand side.
Awesome……….jused loved it . This enhanced my vocabulary. Specially “knee high to grasshopper “just a blast.
Those terms with opposed meaning, may be used as a tricky way to mask malicious intentions.
Awesome so simple yet interesting. ..loved it
I am trying to remember some similar words in my language; this idiom comes first to my mind:” just comes out of the egg” I cannot imagine that he can back me who just comes out of the egg!
We don’t have that one in English but it’s a lovely one – thank you!
I love that!! Thanks!!
thanks. It’s completely helpful for me
Very helpful. Thanks.
Great! Learned so much from this.
Thank you for this! I’m always looking to learn new words through articles like yours 🙂
Also “spring chicken” for describing someone as being young.
Ah, that’s an interesting one because it’s pretty much always used negatively to describe someone who is old: ‘He’s no spring chicken.’ We would be very unlikely to say that someone *is* a spring chicken!
Thank you, everyone for your kind comments!
Good knowledge of new vocab,
looking forward to such more new vocabulary……
Winsomely interesting! Especially’knee high to a grasshopper’.
Much obliged !
Jesus! These articles will help a lot in my english studies. Thank you very much!
Alas! look at that. Almost all the words that described the child in you once, has a negative side to it when we use it on a grown up.Interesting Irony of language.
Yes, I agree! Children have so many good qualities!
How about “tiny”?
Date 1 July 2018
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Mam, I am writing this comment for my selfishness. Please mam provide Essay and Letter on this blog.
I hope you think on it.
Be,been,being why could use in sentence could you please explain?
What is the meaning when i say she is a very youthful seventy-year-old?