AskDefine | Define underage

Dictionary Definition

underage adj
1 not of legal age; "minor children" [syn: minor, nonaged] [ant: major]
2 dependent by virtue of youth

User Contributed Dictionary


Etymology 1

Combination of under and age

Alternative spellings


  1. below the normal or legal age for some activity, such as drinking
  2. not yet a legal adult; still a minor

Etymology 2

Derived from under modified by the suffix -age


  1. a deficit or shortfall in funds

Related terms

Extensive Definition

In law, the term minor (also infant or infancy) is used to refer to a person who is under the age in which one legally assumes adulthood and is legally granted rights afforded to adults in society. Depending on the jurisdiction and application, this age may vary, but is usually marked at either 18 or 21. Specifically, the status of "minor" is defined by the age of majority.
In many countries, including Brazil, Croatia, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, a minor is presently defined as a person under the age of 18. In the United States, where the age of majority is set by the individual states, 'minor' usually refers to someone under the age of 18, but can be used in certain areas to define someone under the age of 21.
In the criminal justice system in some places, the term "minor" is not entirely synonymous, as a minor may be tried for a crime (and punished) as a juvenile or an adult (usually only for extremely serious crimes such as murder).


The terms "infant", "child", "adolescent", "teen", "youth", "juvenile" and "young person" are also used, although some jurisdictions make a legal distinction between these terms. Minor status carries with it special restrictions, penalties and protections that do not apply to adults. All member states of the United Nations except the United States and Somalia have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Examples of restrictions imposed on minors include statutory rape laws, prohibitions against the use of alcohol and cigarettes, compulsory school attendance, the need for adult co-signers on legal documents (e.g. contracts), driver's license requirements, separate punishment and trial (e.g. juvenile courts), child labor laws, curfew laws, prohibitions against viewing certain age restricted films and prohibitions against voting. These laws are meant to protect minors from themselves, but severely restrict a minor's freedom.
Restrictions imposed on minors are typically justified by an assumption of diminished mental capacity. Some jurisdictions allow juvenile emancipation, whereby a minor who can demonstrate competency may take on some rights that are normally reserved for adults.
Not all age-based restrictions are necessarily tied to the same transitional age. The transition from minor to adult, however, is typically defined by the age at which one may independently enter into contracts.
At the end of the 20th century most countries outside of Asia allowed most or all age-based transitions to occur by the age of 18. The propriety of age-based restrictions and selection of a transition age for each remains open to debate due to continued questions about age-specific decision-making capabilities.
The word "minor" is seen as offensive by many Youth Rights organisations such as NYRA because it relates to young people as though they are of lesser importance than adults. For example, comparing a 17 year old with a 2 year old.


In Australia, there are several gradations of responsibility before full legal adulthood. Those under age ten are free of all criminal responsibility under the doli incapax doctrine of UK legal tradition. Those under the age of fourteen are presumed incapable of responsibility, but this can be disputed in court. The age of full legal responsibility is 18 except Queensland where it is 17. The age of majority in all states and territories is 18.
The age of majority is 18 for most purposes including sitting on a jury, voting, standing as a candidate, marriage, hiring R-rated films or seeing them in a theater, buying/viewing pornography and purchasing alcohol and tobacco products. A person under 18 is defined as a minor or a child.


United States

In the United States as of 1995, minor is legally defined as a person under eighteen. However, not all minors are considered "juveniles" in terms of criminal responsibility. As is frequently the case in the United States, the laws vary widely by state.
In eleven states, including Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas, a "juvenile" is legally defined as a person under seventeen. In three states, Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, "juvenile" refers to a person under sixteen. In other states a juvenile is legally defined as a person under eighteen.
Under this distinction, those considered juveniles are usually tried in juvenile court, and they may be afforded other special protections. For example, in some states a parent or guardian must be present during police questioning, or their names may be kept confidential when they are accused of a crime. For many crimes (especially more violent crimes), the age at which a minor may be tried as an adult is variable below the age of 18 or (less often) below 16 [Gaines, Larry K and Roger Leroy Miller. "Criminal Justice in Action" 4th ed., Thompson Wadsworth Publishing, 2007. Pg 495). For example, in Kentucky, the lowest age a juvenile may be tried as an adult, no matter how heinous the crime, is 14.
In most states, juveniles cannot be housed with adult inmates, even if the child is charged as an adult. This is also discouraged by the federal government, which proffers funding only if children and adults are housed in separate facilities. This leads to a lot of subsidiary questions such as whether a juvenile now past their eighteenth birthday can be sentenced to adult jail for a conviction based on behavior that happened before that birthday. As with the adult system, the juvenile justice system has become more and more punitive over time, despite a juvenile's lack of right to a jury in juvenile court, often lower brain development (because of their youth), and evidence that incarceration and even probation lead to a higher incidence of reoffending for juveniles than non-punitive consequences.
The death penalty in the U.S. for those that committed a crime while under the age of 18 was discontinued by the U.S. Supreme Court Case Roper v. Simmons in 2005. The court's 5-4 decision was written by Justice Kennedy and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Stevens, Breyer, and Souter, and cited international law, as well as child developmental science and many other factors in reaching its conclusion.
The age of consent for sexual activity is often lower than the age of majority, frequently using a graduated scale based on the difference in age between the participants. There is an absolute minimum age, however, varying from state to state, below which a minor may not consent. The lowest age for a legal marriage also varies by state.
The twenty-sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1971, granted all citizens 18 years of age or older the right to vote in every state, in every election.
The US Department of Defense took the position that they would not consider the "enemy combatants" they held in extrajudicial detention in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps to be minors unless they were less than sixteen years old. In the event they only separated three of the more than a dozen detainees who were under 16 from the adult prison population. And all the several dozen detainees who were between sixteen and eighteen years of age were detained with the adult prison population. Now those under 18 are kept separate in line with the age of majority and world expectations.
Some states, including Florida, have passed laws allowing one who commits an extremely heinous crime, such as murder, to be tried as an adult, regardless of age. These laws, however, have faced the challenges of the ACLU

United Kingdom

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland a minor is a person under the age of 18; in Scotland, under the age of 16. The age of criminal responsibility in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 10; and 8 in Scotland.
In England and Wales, cases of minors breaking the law are often dealt with by the Youth Offending Team. If they are incarcerated, they will be sent to a youth detention center.
The age of majority is 18 for most purposes including sitting on a jury, voting, standing as a candidate, marriage, hiring films with an 18 certificate or seeing them in a theater, buying/viewing and modelling for pornography and purchasing alcohol, tobacco products and fireworks.
underage in Danish: Myndighedsalder
underage in German: Minderjährigkeit
underage in Spanish: Minoría de edad
underage in Esperanto: Neplenaĝeco
underage in Hebrew: קטין
underage in Dutch: Minderjarige
underage in Polish: Małoletni
underage in Slovenian: Mladoletnik
underage in Swedish: Omyndig
underage in Vietnamese: Vị thành niên
underage in Chinese: 未成年人

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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