AskDefine | Define nanny

Dictionary Definition



1 a woman who is the custodian of children [syn: nursemaid, nurse]
2 female goat [syn: nanny-goat, she-goat]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Nanny



Extensive Definition

A nanny is a person who looks after the child or children of one family in the child's home. Modern nannies may live in or out, like other domestic workers, depending on their circumstances and those of their employers. The traditional nanny was a servant in a large household and reported directly to the lady of the house. A governess, in contrast to a nanny, concentrated on teaching and training children.


In the 19th and early 20th century, the position was usually known as a "nurse", and was, as for many childcare jobs, invariably female. In a great house the nurse ran her own domain, a suite of rooms called the nursery, supported by at least one assistant, known as a nursemaid (or nurserymaid). Because of their role in child care, nannies were somewhat more indulged than junior servants. Nannies may have remained in the employment of the same aristocratic family for years, looking after successive generations of children.

Nannies today

Today, although many families use the modern version of a nanny child care, the classic more historic version from times past is rare. Uniform may still be worn in some cases, but a respectful standard of dress is more common today. Perks of the job may include a nanny flat and a car. Some nannies are highly trained, e.g. at Norland College, but there is no restriction on the use of the word however, so education, training, and experience varies greatly.


A nanny may perform tasks such as:
  • Providing childcare during the hours agreed upon with the employing family
  • Supporting the physical, social, emotional, creative, and intellectual development of children
  • Protecting children from harm and ensuring that they have a safe environment
  • Preparing appetizing and nutritionally-balanced meals and snacks
  • Maintaining good communication with the parents, informing them of each child's development and concerns
  • Maintaining the cleanliness and neatness of the house as affected by the children


Typically, women in their 20s to 60's take up employment as nannies. Some are younger, though normally younger workers are nursemaids or au pairs rather than nannies in the traditional use of the term.
A few positions are filled by men; the term manny is sometimes used for a male nanny, especially in the US and the UK


There are a number of national and international professional associations representing nannies and nanny agencies. The International Nanny Association (INA) was founded in 1985. INA is a non-profit organization which provides an educational association for nannies with placement, employment, and professional support. The Alliance of Professional Nanny Agencies (APNA) was founded in 1993. It is a non-profit organization that promotes professionalism in the nanny placement industry.


In the United Kingdom, OFSTED define a childminder as someone who "provide[s] care for children under eight years of age, for more than two hours each day, on domestic premises, for reward." Childminding differs from nannying in that a nanny goes to the house of the child in order to care for it; childminders look after the child in the childminder's own home. The childminder and their house are both carefully assessed by OFSTED, with an inspection taking place every three years.

Notable nannies

Fictional representations

In a class of her own is Mary Poppins, from P. L. Travers's children's literature series set in Edwardian London.



Many television programs feature real nannies, many of which help parents discipline children.

See also


nanny in German: Kindermädchen
nanny in Dutch: Kinderjuffrouw
nanny in Polish: Niania
nanny in Russian: Няня
nanny in Simple English: Nanny
nanny in Swedish: Barnflicka
nanny in Vietnamese: Bà vú
nanny in Chinese: 褓姆

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Partlet, amah, ayah, biddy, billy, billy goat, bitch, bossy, brood mare, buck, cow, doe, doeling, dry nurse, ewe, ewe lamb, filly, goat, guinea hen, gyp, he-goat, heifer, hen, hind, jenny, kid, lioness, mammy, mare, mountain goat, nanny goat, nurse, nursemaid, nurserymaid, peahen, roe, she-bear, she-goat, she-lion, sitter, slut, sow, tigress, vixen, wet nurse
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