Ian Collins is Leading Britain's Conversation.
I've recently become step-father to two lovely kids and would like to know what the origin of the word "step" is?
** Definitive **
Name: Robert, Somerset
Qualification: Historian with a specific interest in 17th century northern Europe
Answer: Technically, the phrase step-father is incorrect, as it originally was only meant for children - you could have a step-son. The origin is from Old English via German, the word steop, which meant orphan. So the term step-parent is only by association, which evolved in modern times due to to the increase in divorce.