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The meaning and origin of the expression: In the family way

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In the family way

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'In the family way'?

Euphemism, meaning pregnant.

What's the origin of the phrase 'In the family way'?

The expression 'in the family way' was used quite literally until the mid 17th century, with the meaning 'in the manner of a family'. It would have been quite proper for a father and his daughters to attend church 'in the family way'. From the latter part of that century the phrase took on an additional colloquial meaning, that is, 'pregnant'. Initially this applied to men as well as women and meant 'about to become a parent'.

An early example in print is from The Diary of Ralph Thoresby Diary, 1688:

I was most concerned for my dear wife, who was in the family way.

It soon became a standard device in 'proper' society when wanting to allude to a pregnancy without using the word pregnant. Over time it took on a more derogatory tone and was used specifically to refer to unmarried pregnant women.

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