What’s The Difference Between a Father and a Dad?

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Have you ever heard the quote, ‘any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a dad’? Both ‘father’ and ‘dad’ are words used to describe a parent of the male gender.

However, whilst they both technically mean the same thing, the perceptions of what makes a father and what makes a dad often differ. 

In this article we explore the true meaning of the words ‘father’ and ‘dad’ and we take a deep dive into the differences between a father and a dad. If you have heard the quote above and wondered what it meant, keep reading as we share all the answers. 

What Is The True Meaning Of A Father?

The dictionary defines a father as ‘a male parent’ and ‘a man who is thought of as being like a father’.  Your father is the male responsible for your conception.

However, some people use the word father to describe the man who raised them, this is not always their biological parent. 

In modern times, the majority of children will refer to their male parent as dad or daddy, here in the US. Father is still used in many families but the most popular word for the male parent is dad. 

Not Every Father Is A Dad 

It is often argued that not every father is a dad. That sounds confusing, right? The fact is that any fertile man can father a child, but it takes a lot more than just conceiving a baby to be a Dad. 

Dad and father are not just words to describe a male parent, they represent so much more than that, especially the word dad. A father is your biological parent, a dad is the man who raises you, who loves you, and takes responsibility for you. 

It can be confusing, the dictionary gives these words almost the exact same meaning (‘dad’ is defined as the informal term for the word father) but in different contexts, they can mean different things.

Society has long acknowledged that a father and a dad are not always the same thing.  Let’s look at this a little further. 

What Is The Difference Between A Father And A Dad?

Dads and fathers are different. A man can be a father and a dad, just a dad or just a father. If you feel like your brain is getting a bit confused, don’t worry, we are here to explain. 

mom and dad with baby

1. DNA

A father is a man who took part in your conception, along with your mother. A child will share DNA and genetics with their father. This man, if he chooses to be a part of his child’s life and be a present and loving parent, can also be considered as a dad.

Dad is a more familiar and affectionate term than father. Although we celebrate Father’s Day, not many children are calling their male parent father in 2021. 

Dads do not always share DNA with their children. A dad is not always a child’s biological parent. Sometimes he is the male figure in a family who brings up the children, loves and supports them, and shows up for them whenever they need him.

Not all fathers behave in this way. Conceiving a child makes you a father, taking responsibility, and being there for a child makes you their dad. 

2. Everyone has a father

Every person alive has (or has had) a father. Unfortunately, there are many children that grow up without a dad. A male can ‘father’ a child but this doesn’t automatically make him a dad.

Being a dad is all about being a present and responsible parent. A dad will always be there for you, a father may not even know you were born.  A father is guaranteed, the title of Dad is earned by being there for your children no matter what. 

3. Love

It is a sad truth that not all fathers love their children. Some children never meet their biological father, or they have met but don’t have a meaningful relationship with them.

Not all fathers love their children unconditionally. However, a man earns the title of dad by loving the children in his family unconditionally and making it clear he will always be there to support them.

Fathers can be loving dads, and dads can love with all their hearts without being a biological father. 

4. Showing up

dad feeding baby

An absent father is still a father, but he is not a dad. Dads show up to your soccer game, they teach you to ride a bike, they help you with your homework, and are there beaming with pride at your graduation.

Your dad may no longer be in a relationship with your mum, but if he continues to love you and show up for you, he will always be your dad. Your father might never send you a birthday card, but your dad will always make sure you have the best birthday ever. 

5. Making memories

A dad can be a biological parent, an adoptive parent, step-parent, or even just a ‘father figure’. Dads play an active role in raising a child and are there in your happy memories of childhood and family life.

Dads know that parenting isn’t easy but stick around regardless, helping to create happy family moments and teach valuable life lessons you will remember forever.

If your dad is not your biological father, you may have no significant memories with your actual father. 

For children whose mothers raised them alone, they will have no memories with their fathers. However, if a mother goes on to have a serious relationship with another man, he can become the male parent figure in a child’s life and become the loving dad their father never was.

Dads are present and loving and will help to form your happy childhood memories, this is not always the case for fathers. 

The Final Thought 

The word ‘father’ and the word  ‘dad’ share an almost identical definition, but depending on the context, they can in fact mean very different things.

Any man can be a father but not every father is a dad. Whilst being referred to as a father does not mean you are a bad male parent, the word “dad” is often considered much more loving and affectionate.

Whilst any fertile man can be a father, it takes commitment and love to be a dad. We hope this article has helped you to understand the difference between a father and a dad. 

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!