Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who looks after a person who is ill or unable to look after themselves

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun carer comes from the verb ‘care’ with the suffix ‘-er’ which forms nouns showing a person or thing that does something. Although the word has been in existence since the 17th century, this meaning dates from the late 20th century.


The Covid-19 crisis has seen renewed attention paid to carers and the work they do. This attention has focused mainly on members of the caring professions such as nurses, doctors, other hospital workers and workers in care homes, with the weekly ‘clap for carers‘ being an attempt by the general public to show appreciation for their work in sometimes unimaginably difficult circumstances. In its narrower meaning, carer refers to someone who looks after a person in their own home, whether as a profession or because they are a family member. Such work is often unpaid, although someone caring for another person for many hours a week may get an allowance for doing so. A recent campaign supported by many MPs and charities as well as carers themselves calls for carers to be given statutory paid leave in recognition of the fact that, just like other workers, they need a break. Carer is mostly a British term; the American equivalent is caregiver.


Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, called on the government to give carers a right to five to 10 days of paid care leave, adding that such a policy could also help address the gender imbalance in care.

“There is a clear case to improve support at work for carers – paid care leave, alongside flexible working, is key to this.

Related words

care assistant, caregiver, care worker, caretaker

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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