Mother/Father vs. Parent
Thread poster: ebertrand

Local time: 18:29
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 1, 2017

As a translator, I have to work with birth certificates and have not found a concrete answer to this question:
Next, to the child section comes the parent section, but here is the dilemma:
Literally, you read "Father / Parent" or "Mother / Parent", if you look up these words meanings, almost appear as synonyms, with almost no clue of how to differentiate them.
Up to now I always translate "Father or Mother" as "Progenitor" in Spanish and "Father" as "Padre" and "Mother" as "Madre".
The logic to support this translation is that "Progenitor" is the biological father/mother while "Padre /Madre", suits better as Legal Custodians, not biologically related to the child, but have been responsible for his growth.
Does my reasoning make sense to someone? Or even better can somebody tell me is it is linguistical support for my translation.
Best Regards and thanks in advance for your help.


Frank Zou  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:29
Member (2016)
Chinese to English
+ ...
No idea Sep 1, 2017

I have no idea what you are talking about.


Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:29
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Father/Mother vs. Parent Sep 1, 2017

What about "padre o madre" ?


mariealpilles  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:29
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
Mother/Father vs parent Sep 1, 2017

This is simply because now that same-sex marriages are legal, and adoption too in some countries, parent has to be translated as "parent" and father and mother" as they used to be in the traditional life. "Progenitor" is wrong o na birth certificate unless it actually tells you "biological father or mother".


LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:29
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, exactly. Sep 1, 2017

It has to do with same sex marriages, and surrogate motherhood, most likely. There is nothing about legal guardians on Birth Certificates. You have to find some other word, gender neutral, similar to parent.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:29
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It depends on the legal system as much as the language. Sep 1, 2017

Danish has started to use Parent 1 and Parent 2, although I am not sure how people decide in individual cases which is which!
Similarly, they also refer to Spouse 1 and Spouse 2 for a married couple.

In individual cases, mother and father are still used where relevant, but it is useful to have a term that means either or both regardless of gender. In English or Danish 'parent' does not invariably mean a biological 'progenitor' or birth parent, although it may be assumed in many cases. Linguistically, adoptive parents (or others who are not biologically related to the child, but function as parents) are a perfectly logical concept.

You will have to see how Mexican law deals with the question in Spanish if the term 'progenitor' is exclusively linked to biological relatives.


Robin Levey
Local time: 21:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
You need to translate the language and the law Sep 1, 2017

I agree with other contributors that you need to check the precise legal meaning of the terms, in the country/jurisdiction where the certificate was issued. This is of course true of most legal translations - you need to translate both the language and the law.

In Chile, for example, the “padre” whose name appears on a birth certificate is (as the legislation stands today) the man who declares himself as such in a formal statement made at the Register Office – regardless of whether or not he is the biological father of the child.

With that in mind, for example, it would be quite wrong (in Chile, at least) to equate “padre” with “progenitor”, because “progenitor” has biological implications that are not inherent in the legal definition of the term “father”.

It is important to remember, also, that a birth certificate does not serve merely to establish the child’s name, date of birth and sex, but also (and arguably, more importantly) the filiation – i.e., the legal obligations of the persons named as “parents”, especially as regards ensuring the welfare and education of the child, and the right of the child to claim against them if they default on those obligations.


MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:29
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
agree--must translate according to legal definitions Sep 1, 2017

A person can have a birth certificate naming a father and mother who are not related to the child at all biologically, as in the case of adoption. The names of the real parents don't show, nor is there any indication on the certificate that these are not the biological parents. They're just the legal parents now. At least in certain states in the U.S. The ones I've seen show the birth date & time, hospital, doctor, city of birth, etc. of the child but with the adoptive parents' names, even though they lived in a different state at the time!

It's important to know what the legal definitions are for the jurisdiction that issued the b.c. and the law of the target jurisdiction, to avoid confusion.

As for a gender neutral word in Spanish for parent, well ... The best we've come up with for our school district is: padre, madre o tutor (for "Dear parent," "Signature of parent or guardian," etc.).


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Mother/Father vs. Parent

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