Comprehensive Guide To The Term 'Daddy'

There is a time in every man’s life when he becomes a daddy.

When an Electra complex and a pop culture moment really love each other, they make a new term, and then the Internet uses that term in unfathomable ways. Sure, “daddy” has been around for a while. In simpler times, this was the word that young children assigned to their fathers, when everything was good and normal and pure. But those are not the times we live in anymore. We live in Daddy’s World, and depending on who you say that to, you might end up in an awkward situation.

While the world is rife with complicated mysteries, we have taken the time to investigate all the terms for father, and how they've been warped to mean something very different than a paternal parent. This Father’s Day, take a moment to educate yourself on the different kinds of daddies.

Note: While "Father" was not included in this listing, George Michael did use the term in a kind of creepy way in his 1987 hit, "Father Figure." Just being comprehensive.


Let’s get this one out of the way first. No one over the age of 12 is calling anyone "daddy" without a tinge of something else there. If we get historical, its first use dates back to 1621, when prostitutes used it to refer to their pimps. That’s super unfortunate.

Jump ahead to the 1970s, when the gay community co-opted the word for leather subculture, with the term “leather daddy” coming to be. That term has stuck around in the leather community, and even Alex Jones, the host of InfoWars and lingual purist, has gotten in on the leather daddy action. The gay community has continued to adopt the word by dropping the "leather" part, with "daddy" alone generally meaning “an attractive man of an older age.”

Other definitions have been identified in heterosexual art, such as the 1968 song "Time of the Season," which opens with “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? / Is he rich like me?” Springsteen followed in 1984 with "I’m On Fire," singing, "Hey little girl is your daddy home? / Did he go and leave you all alone? Mmhm, I got a bad desire.” In 2002, American patriot and wearer of weathered cowboy hats Toby Keith released "Who's Your Daddy?"

That leads us to the present, where the online community uses "daddy" as anything from a term of endearment, to...well, sometimes kids tweet "fuck me daddy" at the Pope. Why is it a thing? I don't know. This use of "daddy" is the equivalent of an Internet meme.

For some points of reference, Jon Hamm, Idris Elba, Anderson Cooper, and Gerard Butler are all daddies.


"Dad" is actually pretty safe. A term reserved for, usually, your own father, it's just a shortened form of the word "daddy" with a lot fewer implications. If you're not directly referencing your father, "dad" is more in line with a compliment. Fandoms will regularly comment "mom" or "dad" on the social media posts of their favourite celebs. Pop star Lorde explained in a now-deleted Tumblr post that the term is meant as a compliment, implying "adopt me."

A good example of a run-of-the-mill dad? Sterling K. Brown.

G A Y  D A D D I E S  Are Special, Too

You will inevitably find yourself, as you’re looking for a Daddy-seeker, faced with a profile or a question about whether you’re “generous.” It’s best to make it clear that you’re either a Sugar Daddy or more of the type who’s offering an emotional, romantic or a sexual bond. Certainly, there are many adult boys who seek a Daddy as a transactional affair, whether inside or outside the bedroom. If that’s not you, say so upfront.

There’s a premium placed on youth in our culture, and young men can be beautiful. But it didn’t really start to enjoy being a Daddy until guys came to understand that the older half of the equation is as rare and special as the younger and that we are deserving of the hero worship they want to invest. A Daddy can help put life into context for someone feeling overwhelmed by the randomness of the world - especially in gay culture. A mature man has a grasp of history and life experience; he can provide compassion and cautionary tales; he’s more apt to be comfortable communicating about sex and have strategies about how to keep it fresh and safe at the same time.

Conversely, younger men know the internet. They’re familiar with suddenly and constantly adapting to where they seek information and the technology required to access it. They’ll stay up until sunrise and beyond if given a reason — even if that reason doesn’t appear until after 3 am. They’re often curious, and while they won’t always agree with your conclusions, they know you’ve seen more of the world, even if your understanding largely comes from driving around town with the news on for decades. An adult boy knows what’s trending now and can show you how to keep up with the same. We in return can share with them the great films from our lifetimes (and earlier). Before long, you’re both sharing what you know that the other doesn’t - and that can be the beginning of a fascinating journey.


"Zaddy" originated from a 2016 Ty Dolla $ign song by the same name. While the lyrics seem to suggest that it isn't too different from a hyper-sexualized daddy ("Ay, Zaddy gon' pull up and he gon' fuck you all night / Ay, you know Zaddy there, you got that act right"), there is apparently a differentiator. While a daddy is an attractive older man, a Zaddy is a man "with swag" who is attractive and also fashionable. It appears that it has less to do with age. Zayn Malik, previously of One Direction, is a popular Zaddy. Ryan Reynolds is also likely a Zaddy.

P O P P A / P A P I

Ah, yes, the Poppa/Papi category. It appears that the first time "poppa" took a turn for the sexual is in the 1994 song from the Notorious B.I.G. entitled "Big Poppa." In the chorus, he chants, "I like it when you call me Big Poppa." Rap music loves a good "daddy" reference as much as any other genre, but Biggie was quite the pioneer. The term has been since purified slightly, with rap’s resident sweet boy Drake adopting "Champagne Papi" as one of his monikers. Granted, he has five or six aliases, but Champagne Papi seems to have the same cultural caché as "sugar daddy" (see below).

"Poppa" and "Papi" have not had the same cultural moment as "daddy" in recent years, but both continue to be used interchangeably, and in Spanish-speaking cultures, specifically in the Caribbean, "Papi" has been used as a term of endearment for quite some time.

S U G A R  D A D D Y

"Sugar daddy's" roots actually run much deeper than you'd imagine. A sugar daddy is an older man who typically pays for the expenditures of a younger companion in exchange for the company, or, um, other stuff. In popular culture, one of the first uses of the term was a 1927 silent film entitled Sugar Daddies, where a man wakes up to find he has married a woman with gold-digging children. "Sugar daddy" continued to be used in popular culture, specifically as a song title for bands including the Jackson 5, AC/DC, and Fleetwood Mac.

The term has retained its original meaning and is still used to this day. There is a variation called "sugar mama," which refers to a woman who offers financial support to a younger companion. Also, here's a video of a Shangela, a drag queen on RuPaul's Drag Race, screaming at someone about not having a sugar daddy.


This stands for "Dad I'd Like to Fuck," which is pretty self-explanatory.

That’s the rundown. It doesn’t remedy the issue that you still haven’t bought your poor dad a gift, but in this ever-shifting Internet culture, you are at least armed with the information you need to understand all types of father figures.


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