adj. young·er, young·est
1. Being in an early period of life, development, or growth.
2. Newly begun or formed; not advanced: a young biotech company.
3. Relating to, typical of, or suggestive of youth or early life: He is young for his age.
4. Lacking experience; immature: a young hand at plowing.
5. Being the junior of two people having the same name.
6. Geology Being of an early stage in a geologic cycle. Used of bodies of water and land formations.
1. Young persons considered as a group; youth: entertainment for the young.
2. Offspring; brood: a lioness with her young.
Pregnant. Used of an animal.
[Middle English yong, from Old English geong; see yeu- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: young, youthful, adolescent, immature, juvenile, childish, puerile, infantile
These adjectives relate to an early stage of growth or development and to its accompanying characteristics. Young is the most general, applying to various periods of life, generally before middle age, as well as to inanimate entities: a young child; a young couple; a young galaxy.
It can suggest a youthful attitude or outlook regardless of chronological age: young at heart.
Youthful suggests the positive characteristics, such as enthusiasm, freshness, or energy, that are traditionally associated with youth: approached the task with youthful ardor.
Adolescent connotes the physical and especially mental or emotional characteristics of those between childhood and maturity; it is generally not disparaging except when used of an adult: adolescent insecurity; an adolescent outburst from the trial lawyer.
Immature is more clearly judgmental, implying that one falls short of an expected level of mental or emotional development for one's age: an emotionally immature adult.
Juvenile suggests the immaturity usually associated with adolescents, but it can convey an attitude of tolerance as well as criticism: the juvenile pranks of the conventioneers.
Childish is similar to juvenile but with a younger frame of reference, often suggesting selfishness, stubbornness, or lack of restraint: a committee member with a childish need to have the last word.
However, it can also suggest such positive qualities of children as innocence and wholeheartedness: took childish delight in tending his garden.
Puerile and infantile are used derogatorily to suggest extreme immaturity, especially with regard to social manners: a puerile joke; an infantile boast.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.