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Infantilise vs. Infantilize: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Aimie Carlson || Updated on November 10, 2023
"Infantilise" and "infantilize" are different spellings of the same word, with "infantilise" being British and "infantilize" American. They both mean to treat someone as if they are a child, disregarding their maturity or age.

Key Differences

Infantilise and infantilize share the same meaning: treating someone in a way that denies their maturity or age, making them seem like a child. The primary difference between the two lies in their spelling, which reflects the variant of English being used.
In British English, infantilise is the standard spelling. It's used in contexts where an adult is treated in a patronizing or overly protective manner that is typical for children. Infantilize, on the other hand, is the American English spelling and is used in the same contexts within the United States.
Both terms imply a reduction in the perceived capability or autonomy of an individual, often in a demeaning manner. The act of infantilising or infantilizing someone can occur in personal relationships, social interactions, or even in workplace settings.
The usage of infantilise or infantilize often indicates the speaker's or writer's geographical or cultural background. For example, British media and literature will typically use infantilise, whereas American sources will use infantilize.
Regardless of the spelling, the concept of infantilising or infantilizing someone is generally viewed negatively, as it undermines an individual's maturity and competence, and the choice of spelling should align with the variant of English being used.

Comparison Chart

Spelling Variation

British English
American English


Treating someone as if they are a child
Treating someone as if they are a child

Usage Regions

UK, Commonwealth countries
USA, countries influenced by American English


Personal, social, workplace
Personal, social, workplace

Linguistic Preference

Reflects British language norms
Reflects American language norms

Infantilise and Infantilize Definitions


To diminish an adult's autonomy in a demeaning manner.
The policy was criticized for infantilising its employees.


To treat an adult like a child.
He resented being infantilized by his colleagues.


To treat an adult in a way typical for a child.
He felt infantilised by his parents' constant interference.


To overly coddle or protect an adult.
The company's policies were seen as infantilizing its customers.


To undermine someone's maturity.
Infantilising her capabilities affected her confidence.


To belittle someone's adult qualities or capabilities.
The new rules at work seemed to infantilize the staff.


To treat someone in a patronizing manner.
The teacher was accused of infantilising her students.


To reduce someone's perceived competence.
Infantilizing her role in the project was unfair.


To overprotect someone, thus hindering their development.
By infantilising their son, they hindered his independence.


To patronize someone in a demeaning way.
Infantilizing older adults in care is a common concern.


Standard spelling of infantilize


To treat or condescend to as if still a young child
"The Victorian physician infantilized his patient" (Judith Moore).


To reduce to an infantile state or condition
"It creates a crisis that infantilizes them—causes grown men to squabble like kids about trivial things" (New Yorker).


(transitive) To reduce (a person) to the state or status of an infant.


(transitive) To treat (a person) like a child.


Is infantilize seen negatively?

Generally, yes, as it undermines someone's autonomy and maturity.

Can infantilise be used in formal writing?

Yes, in British English contexts.

What does infantilize mean?

The same as infantilise, but it’s the American English spelling.

How do you pronounce infantilise?

It's pronounced in-fan-til-eyes.

What’s an example of infantilising behavior?

Speaking to an adult in a condescending, child-like manner.

Is there a difference in usage between infantilise and infantilize?

No, just a difference in spelling based on British or American English.

Is infantilise commonly used?

It's relatively common in discussions about patronizing behavior.

Is it offensive to infantilize someone?

Often, as it disrespects their adult capabilities.

What does infantilise mean?

To treat someone as if they are a child, diminishing their maturity.

Can a company’s culture infantilize its employees?

Yes, through overly controlling or protective policies.

Does infantilize have different meanings?

No, it’s specific to treating adults like children.

Can a policy infantilize adults?

Yes, if it excessively restricts or patronizes them.

Is infantilise a psychological term?

It’s used in psychology to describe certain behaviors.

How can you avoid infantilizing someone?

By respecting their maturity and independence.

Can parents infantilize their adult children?

Yes, by not acknowledging their adult status and capabilities.

Are there cultural variations in infantilizing?

Yes, attitudes can vary based on cultural norms.

Can infantilizing affect someone’s self-esteem?

Yes, it can negatively impact an individual's confidence and self-worth.

Can infantilise be used in a positive context?

Rarely, as it usually implies a lack of respect for maturity.

Does infantilize imply intentional disrespect?

It can, but not always; it sometimes stems from overprotection.

Is infantilize a modern term?

It’s been in use for some time but is relevant in modern discussions.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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