Difference Between Childlike and Childish

‘Childlike’ and ‘Childish’ are often used interchangeably with the wrong connotations.


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To properly use vocabulary, one should understand the differences between the two.

‘Childlike’ is the term used to denote an individual’s innocence and kind traits, whereas ‘Childish’ depicts immature and unruly behaviour.

‘Childlike’ is often used in a positive sense that depicts qualities like sweetness, kindness, purity, etc., whereas ‘Childish’ is used with negative connotations to define foolish, immature, and annoying behaviour.

Key Takeaways

  1. Childlike refers to children’s positive qualities, such as innocence, curiosity, and wonder, whereas childish denotes the negative traits of children, like immaturity, irresponsibility, and pettiness.
  2. Childlike qualities are often seen as admirable in adults, while childish behaviors are considered inappropriate and unbecoming.
  3. The distinction between childlike and childish lies in the perception of the traits: childlike qualities are endearing and praiseworthy, while childish behaviors are frowned upon and undesirable.

Childlike vs Childish

Childlike refers to the qualities of a child such as innocence, wonder, and a sense of playfulness, and can also describe someone who has retained these qualities into adulthood. Childish is a negative term that refers to behavior that is immature, selfish, and lacking in emotional maturity.

Childlike vs Childish

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One should note that usually, ‘childlike’ behaviour is accepted by everyone, whereas people criticize ‘childish’ behaviour.


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonChildishChildlike
Definition‘Childish’ is the behaviour trait that is rendered annoying and immature. Such an individual who portrays this kind of behaviour is considered irritating.‘Childlike’ refers to behaviour that is considered sweet, pure, kind, etc. Such a person who shows this kind of behaviour is acceptable to people.
ConnotationsThis term is usually used with negative connotations, where it is referred to as demeaning people.This term is used with positive connotations where it is used to reflect the innocence of individuals.
Multiplicity of meaningThe word ‘childish’ can be used for different meanings, such as disparaging someone.‘childlike’ can depict meanings like complimenting someone or showing gratitude.
SynonymsSome other words that can be used in place of ‘childish’ are immature, stupid, naive, foolish, etc.Other words that can replace ‘childish’ are innocent, unsuspecting, cute, etc.
ExamplesWe can understand the term better with the help of the following criteria:
· Enough of your childish pranks.
· Stop being childish and give me the book.
Some of the examples to understand the term better are as follows:
· She always performs with childlike purity.
· She has a childlike face.


What is Childlike?

‘Childlike’ is the adjective used to depict the good synonymous with an innocent child’s qualities, such as sweetness, purity, calmness, etc.

The term is often used with positive connotations as a compliment or to denote the appropriate behaviour of any individual.

The person portraying such traits is accepted by everyone and is often seen as honest and enthusiastic.

It depicts the deemed behaviour of a kind, innocent, and sweet individual, like a child. 

Some of the examples to demonstrate the usage of the term better are as follows:

  1. Her childlike innocence won her the crown.
  2. Adam showed youthful enthusiasm for the event.
  3. Mary has a childlike sweetness in her speech.
  4. Jake couldn’t understand the mockery because of his childlike attitude.

The term is also used as an appreciation to praise someone’s virtues and behaviour.

‘Childlike’ can, therefore, refer to anyone innocent or whose appearance, behaviour, etc. are cute.

Some word replacements for the adjective ‘childlike’ are-innocent, sweet, gullible, pure, etc.


What is Childish?

‘Childish’ is the adjective used to depict individuals’ annoying traits.

It is often used with negative connotations, and people usually look down upon such behaviour.

It should be noted that even if it has the word child, it still doesn’t denote a positive meaning.

The person showing the traits of childish behaviour is considered unattractive and irritating.

Usually, people with childish behaviour have emotional escalations and are attention seekers.

To get noticed, they behave immaturely and take decisions abruptly.

Some of the examples to understand the term are:

  1. Mrs Smith’s childish behaviour and ignorance gave rise to the tragedy.
  2. Can you please stop being childish?
  3. Please behave appropriately, don’t be childish.
  4. His childish demeanour was the reason for his failure at the task.

The adjective can also be used interchangeably with other words, such as annoying, immature, unruly, mannerless, etc.  


Main Differences Between Childlike and Childish

  1. ‘Childish’ is the term that is used to refer to the behaviour of a person where a person is naïve and behaves abruptly, whereas ‘childlike’ is the term that is used to refer to someone’s behaviour, appearance or character, which are innocent and appears like that of a child.
  2. The connotations are essential to understand the usage of the terms. The term ‘childish’ is usually used to denote the negative aspects of someone’s behaviour, whereas the term ‘childlike’ denotes the positive qualities of an individual.
  3. While using the term ‘childish’ refers to an immature and unruly attitude, on the contrary ‘, childlike’ shows the innocence and purity of a person.
  4. People often look down upon the person who portrays ‘childish’ activities, and the term ‘childlike’ comes as a compliment because such behaviour is highly acceptable.
  5. Word replacements for ‘childish’ are unruly, stupid, immature, foolish, etc., whereas word replacements for ‘childlike’ are innocent, pure, sweet, etc.
Difference Between Childlike and Childish
  1. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ675227
  2. https://dc.swosu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1674&context=mythlore
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1 thought on “Difference Between Childlike and Childish”

  1. Avatar of Egon Morogoue
    Egon Morogoue

    So I acted childlike when I was child and my wife acts childish when she asks me to quit drinking wine 🙂

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