AskDefine | Define godparent

Dictionary Definition

godparent n : a person who sponsors someone (the godchild) at baptism

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The person who stood for a child during a naming ceremony or baptism
  2. A godfather or godmother
  3. One who cares for a child if untimely demise is met by the parents


person who stood for a child during a naming ceremony or baptism
godfather or godmother
one who cares for a child if untimely demise is met by the parents

Extensive Definition

A godparent, in many denominations of Christianity, is someone who sponsors a child's baptism. Judaism has this equivalent in the circumcision ceremony. A male godparent is a godfather and a female godparent is a godmother. The child is a godchild (godson, goddaughter).


Traditionally, the godparents were counted informally responsible for ensuring that the child's religious education was carried out and for caring for the child should he/she be orphaned. Today the word "godparent" may not have explicitly religious overtones. The modern view of a godparent tends to be an individual chosen by the parents to take a vested interest in the child's upbringing and personal development. However, godparent is not a legal position, and should the parents seriously intend the godparents to act as foster parents in case of their death, this must be legally specified through the usual means (such as a will).
A godparent may, or may not, be related to the child. A child may have one, two or several godparents.

Anglican Church

Prospective godparents must be at least baptized before they can take on this responsibility. Traditionally the child is given three godparents, two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. i.e., a baby boy has two godfathers and one godmother and a baby girl has one godfather and two godmothers.

Roman Catholic Church

In the Roman Catholic church, only church members who have undergone Confirmation are accepted as godparents. Someone who belongs to another Christian denomination cannot become a godparent but is known as a Christian Witness, with most of the regular role of a godparent. Non-Christians are not at all eligible to any religious role formalized by the Church. This is based on the view that the godparent-godchild relationship is not something which is just between the persons and God, but a whole-Church event wherein the Holy Spirit dwells.
A Godparent prays for the newly baptized, looks after them spiritually and gives them guidance. The Catholic Church sees Baptism as an entry into the Kingdom of God, and entry into the Church.


There are two roles in the Jewish circumcision ceremony which are sometimes translated as godparent. The sandek holds the baby boy while he is circumcised. Among Orthodox Ashkenazi the kvater (or kvaterin if female) is the person who takes the child from his mother and carries him into the room in which the circumcision is performed. "kvater" is etymologically derived from the German Gott-Vater ("godfather").

Non-religious context

In some cultures, the word for "godparent of one's child" is used for any, or certain, very close friends. This is the meaning of the Portuguese and Spanish compadre (literally, "co-father") and comadre ("co-mother"), the French commère and compère, and the archaic meaning of the English word gossip (from godsib, "god-sibling"). Also, the Spanish words for the godparent roles are used for members of the wedding party — padrino meaning "godfather" or "best man" and madrina meaning "godmother" or "matron of honor" — reflecting that the friends serving this role in a couple's wedding traditionally were chosen as godparents to their children.
Godparent is also used, in absence of a "religious reason", as a stated person (be it family member or close friend) who is responsible for the child in the event of both parents' demise or incapacitation.
Folktales often feature a fairy godmother, a fairy who acts as a mentor to a main character.
In Belgium, the Monarch is traditionally the godparent to the 7th consecutive child of one gender (i.e., the seventh son or seventh daughter) born in a family.


godparent in Catalan: Padrí
godparent in Danish: Fadder
godparent in German: Pate
godparent in Spanish: Padrino
godparent in Faroese: Gudforeldur
godparent in French: Parrain (religion)
godparent in Italian: Padrino e madrina
godparent in Hebrew: סנדק
godparent in Dutch: Peterschap
godparent in Japanese: 代父母
godparent in Korean: 대부모
godparent in Norwegian: Fadder
godparent in Portuguese: Padrinho
godparent in Romanian: Naş
godparent in Quechua: Achi tayta
godparent in Finnish: Kummi
godparent in Swedish: Fadder
godparent in Chinese: 教父
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