Difference between Childish and Childlike

The adjectives childish and childlike both refer to the characteristics of a child—but generally not to the same characteristics. The words childish and childlike, are more or less associated with the characteristics of a child, that is why people often use them interchangeably, but there is a huge difference between them, which lies in their meaning. Childish and childlike initially meant nearly the same thing: “resembling or suggesting a child.”

As the word ‘childish‘ is commonly used in a negative sense, i.e. to disparage someone. On the other hand, ‘childlike‘ is a positive compliment given to someone, for having good qualities similar to a child. Let’s have a look at the example given below to understand the difference between them:

No one likes her childish behavior, but everyone praises her childlike honesty.

In the given example, you might have observed that the word ‘childish’ is unflattering, as it is something which people find annoying and irritating. As against, the word ‘childlike’ is used in a good sense, to appreciate the qualities of a person, that resembles a child. Childlike is a softer word and can have a positive quality.

His faith in the impossible is very childlike / His faith in the impossible is very childish.

Those are two very different statements to make. Childish is difficult to use in a positive way. It’s a denigrating statement to make.

Difference between Childish and Childlike


  • Childish commonly means silly or immature. This adjective usually (but not always) points to unfavorable qualities.
  • It refers to a behavior in which a person acts in a foolish and annoying way.
  • We use the word ‘childish’ to refer to the behavior of a person, in which he or she behaves silly or foolishly.
  • The adjective ‘childish’ represents behaving immaturely, foolishly, insensibly or silly like a child. When a person is an adult but acts childishly, it means that they pretend like a child, which they are not.
  • When we use the word ‘childish’ we are talking about immaturity which a person shows in his/her deeds.
  • Childish behavior is usually annoying to many people and thus unattractive because if a person is childish, he/she is self-centered and may not be able to understand another person’s perspective and condition.
  • The word ‘childish’ has a negative connotation; it is used to outline the bratty or silly attitude of a person, which is not at all likable.


  • Childlike means trusting or innocent, and it generally refers to the more positive or favorable qualities of a child.
  • The word ‘childlike’ indicates the good qualities of a child, such as honesty, sweetness, purity, etc.
  • A person’s behavior, appearance, voice, or character is said to be childlike when it sounds like that of a child.
  • A person is said to be childlike, when he or she has very good qualities, like that of a child, especially in their behavior, appearance, thinking, or character.
  • When we use the word ‘childlike’ we discuss the innocence which a person acquires like a child.
  • Childlike is a positive compliment given to someone possessing virtues typical of a child, even if he/she is an adult.
  • ‘Childlike’ is used positively, to praise someone’s youthful virtues.