When are you no longer an orphan?

I’m 65 years old, and both of my parents are deceased. Recently someone described me as an orphan, and it just seemed like an odd term for someone my age. To me, an orphan would have to be young enough to be somebody’s dependent. If you’re a self-sufficient adult, the term doesn’t seem appropriate.


To me it seems someone is an orphan if both their parents die before they’ve reached adulthood. If that same person is still considered an orphan even after they’re an adult though, I’m not sure.

If your parents died after you were an adult, I don’t believe I’d consider you an orphan.

I guess your dependent status works pretty nicely.

Im a bastard, I think thats life long.

Perhaps its the word for the person at an age that requires a guardian yet hasnt either parent.

You stop being an orphan when your parents come back to life.

An Orr fan? Of course! He was an gentleman and an excellent hockey player.

Of course you’re an orphan. One of the definitions of ‘orphan’ is - “to deprive of one or both parents”.

Now the rest of it kind of revolves on whether or not you feel like an orphan - how you deal with it, I suppose. When my mother died this year I felt kind of orphaned…but honestly I had already been feeling rather parent-less for years and years; the death just cemented that it would never get better.

Isn’t the dictionary definition of an orphan “a child who has lost both parents”?

In The Pirates of Penzance, the pirates are all orphans, and Major-General Stanley claims to be an orphan (though that turns out to be a lie). So at least W.S. Gilbert thought that grown-ups could be orphans, including a Major-General old enough to have daughters of a marriageable age.

I had assumed they’d been orphans as children and had basically formed a merry gang of thieves having bonded over their experiences of being raised in orphanages a la Oliver Twist.

My impression is that one is an orphan if one’s parents die while one is still a dependant.

If a person is an orphan, they can retain that description into adulthood, though in the past tense - one is not an “orphan” in comman use, but one “was orphaned as a child”.

The rationale: there is a presumption that losing one’s parents at a young age is more traumatic than when one is an adult. It is this trauma, or presumed trauma, that makes “orphan” a notable description.

Except that the pirates were all “noblemen who had gone wrong” – so no orphanages for them. Perhaps they had met while going to some public school (e.g., Eton or Harrow).

On a slightly different avenue, my grandfather (Mom’s dad) died when she was 33. After about 15 years or so afterwards, my grandmother remarried. In the past 5 years or so, someone referred to my grandmother’s new husband as Mom’s stepdad. Which he is, I guess, but it seemed really strange - the term didn’t seem to fit since Mom was nearly 50 when my grandmother remarried.

A former friend of mine (“Ack, patooie! We speak of him no more!”), who at the age of 30 lost his dad, refers to his mom’s new husband as “My mom’s husband.” It seemed really weird to refer to the new guy as a “step-dad” when he wasn’t raising him or otherwise taking part in a family unit.

If my widowed mom remarried I’d probably call the guy by his name.

From my experience of boarding school, some of the orphans got to spend the term breaks (one or two weeks long) at the nearly empty school, “minded” by a housekeeper and one master (teacher) who was himself an orphan. Same thing for a couple of kids whose families were overseas. It’s been thirty five years, but I still feel bad for the poor buggers.

I agree that you are not an orphan if you didn’t lose your parents until you were an independent adult, and the definitions I found in a minute of browsing generally back you up.

Though, there is another interesting variant. Some say a child who has lost one parent is an orphan, and who has lost both parents is a double orphan. UNICEF is a well known organization that uses this terminology. And, while most say a child who has lost both parents is an orphan, some call a child who has lost one parent a half-orphan.

So if my dad was in a persistent vegetative state, would I be 1/4 orphan or 1.5 orphan?

Are you sure they weren’t just trying to be cute? I agree with your definition. If they seriously considered adults that lose their parents to be orphans then they need to have their ignorance fought.

My father died when I was 11 and my mother died when I was 16. I never once felt like an orphan or been described as one.

I think of an orphan as a little kid (pre-teen).

So I should go easier on Frank and Estelle because both my parents are 80ish orphans?

Both of my parents died when I was in my 30s, more than 20 years ago – just today I described myself as an orphan (as in, there are advantages to being one at this time of year).