What is the meaning of second clause in this sentence ?

She was an only child who had been very welcome.

I read this sentence in various online dictionaries. I understand the meaning of first part that the girl we are talking about was the only child of her parents but what does the second part means ? Does it mean that since she was the first and only child of her parents she was welcomed very well, her birth day was celebrated very well, all in all she was the apple of her parent's eye


Does this means that she had been very generous / humble who welcomes everyone, ( amiable, friendly etc)

If the meaning of the sentence is somewhat like what I suggested in first part then its fine no further questions but if it's like the meaning of second explanation which I gave then isn't the use of the better than use of an in the sentence before only child in the sentence ? By using the we will imply that she was the only child ( among others) who was amiable, the sounds better to me as we are talking about a specific child.

  • Most likely who had been very welcome is only really there to dispel any suspicions that she might have been the result of an "unwelcome / unplanned" pregnancy (since by default we might suppose that a couple who actively want children might be more likely to have more than one). Jun 8, 2017 at 16:37
  • Even if the second interpretation were valid (which would require "welcoming", as @HarrisWeinstein rightly says), you could still have "an" and it would make perfect sense. I suggest you avoid seeing two words in the phrase "only child", but just a single item meaning (as you know) "child with no siblings". (After all "an only" can't occur anywhere else.) Whereas "the only child" is three very clearly separated words if it has the meaning you were suggesting. Jun 8, 2017 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


The first interpretation is indeed a reasonable reasonable one and is almost certainly the better choice.

The second interpretation doesn't quite match. Had it said "She was an only child who had been very welcoming", it might suggest she was amiable and friendly, but as is, it is a third-party stance on her (i.e. she was welcomed by her parents).

  • How about replacing very welcome with very welcomed ? She was an only child who had been very welcomed. This sounds more closer to first interpretation . I mean using welcomed in place of welcome sounds better in conveying first interpretation. Is it correct to use welcomed here ?
    – user212388
    Jun 8, 2017 at 16:36
  • 1
    @user212388 Good thought, but a person doesn't actually have to be "welcomed" (verb) in order to be "welcome" (adjective). The latter means "whose presence/existence is desired, appreciated, wanted." Jun 8, 2017 at 16:39
  • @user212388 Making it "welcomed" transforms it into an event, rather than an ambient attribute of her as "welcome". It wouldn't be wrong, exactly, but it'd be less right.
    – Harris
    Jun 8, 2017 at 16:50

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