Difference Between Childish and Childlike

Childish vs Childlike

Although the words childish and childlike appear similar to one another, these two words show a difference between them as they have completely different meanings. Being childish is when a grown up displays silly and immature behavior. For example, when a person displays irrational fears for his age, we often say ‘don’t be so childish.’ Childlike, on the other hand, refers to being simple and innocent. Through this article, let us examine the difference between childish and childlike.

What does Childish mean?

The word childish can be defined in two ways. It can mean, appropriate or as a child or else silly and immature. In a general sense, childish is when the behavior or appearance of an adult resembles a child, more than an adult. For instance when we say,

She looks childish in that outfit.

This directly refers to the appearance of the individual. It highlights that, even though, the person is an adult, the outfit brings about childishness in her. This word can also be used with another meaning with reference to behavior or else particular actions. For example,

Her childish behavior in front of the entire family embarrassed him.

Don’t act so childish.

In each case, notice how the word childish has been used in relation to the behavior of an individual. According to the first example, the word childish highlights that the actions of the individual has been similar to a child. This can even mean that the behavior was silly and immature for her age, which is why she was an embarrassment. The second example once again emphasizes that the actions are immature. We usually use this word for adults since childish behavior is natural for young kids, but inappropriate for adults, as they reflect behavior from which the individual should grow out.

Difference Between Childish and Childlike

‘She looks childish’

What does Childlike mean?

Unlike the word childish, which denotes immaturity, Childlike denotes being simple and innocent. It is usually viewed as a positive quality for adults since it highlights a sense of purity that is rare. Also, being childlike is not immaturity or silliness in behavior but simplicity.

Also, the word childlike is applied in a variety of contexts, unlike the word childish, which is strictly confined to appearance and behavior. For instance, it can refer to qualities in an individual such as trust, optimism, wonder, etc. Now let us pay attention to an example.

Her childlike trust in him surprised the others.

This example displays that the word childlike can be used for qualities that can be viewed in an adult which emphasize the purity of a child.

 Childish vs Childlike

‘Her childlike trust in him surprised the others’

What is the difference between Childish and Childlike?

Definitions of Childish and Childlike:

Childish: The word childish can be defined as appropriate or as a child or else silly and immature.

Childlike: The word Childlike can be defined as being simple and innocent.

Characteristics of Childish and Childlike:

Negative Connotations:

Childish: At times, the word childish has a negative connotation.

Childlike: The word childlike has a more positive connotation. However, this applies to certain situations only.

Associated Behavior:

Childish: The word childish is associated with immaturity or silliness in behavior.

Childlike: The word childlike is associated with simplicity and purity.


Childish: Childish is used for behavior and appearance.

Childlike: Childlike is used in a variety of settings and refers to individual qualities.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Actress Carey Mulligan by canmark (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  2. Couple via Pixabay (Public Domain)