Origin of the Word Mom
“Mother of mine / You gave to me all of my life To do as I please / I owe everything I have to you Mother, sweet mother of mine …”
Nobody knows who created the mesmeric word ‘mother’ and why mothers are called ‘mom’. Where in the world this word was first uttered and by whom, is not really known. However, the word can be traced back to the 1800s. It is widely believed that the word was born from the much older word ‘mamma’, which can be traced back to the 1500s in English. In Latin ‘mamma’ means ‘breast’ or ‘teat’, and from the word ‘mamma’, we also got the word ‘mammalia’ and later ‘mammal’ to describe animals that suckle their young.
Surprisingly, we find an extremely similar word of ‘mom’ almost in every language on earth. It is called ‘maman’ in French, ‘moeder’ in Dutch, ‘mor’ in Swedish, ‘mutter’ in German, ‘madre’ in Italian and Spanish, ‘ma mère in Portuguese, ‘mama’ in Russian and simply ‘ma’ in many Indian languages, including Hindi and Bengali.
It is evident that, universally the word starts with an ‘m’ sound. It is generally believed that a baby makes a repeated ‘m’ sound while suckling or feeding, while its mouth is full of his or her mother’s life giving bosom. Further, when the baby is hungry and sees the source of its food, he or she starts to repeat the same sound, the only sound known, to draw attention. Finally, the baby personifies the sound with the person of his or her food supply.
Though this not an established evidence of the origin of ‘mom’ or ‘mamma’, at the least it explains why in almost every language of the world the word denoting mother starts with the 'm', and often 'ma' sound.