Altricial, meaning “requiring nourishment,” refers to a pattern of growth and development in organisms which are incapable of moving around on their own soon after hatching or being born. The word is derived from the Latin root alere meaning “to nurse, to rear, or to nourish,” and refers to the need for young to be fed and taken care of for a long duration.

Compared with other primates, human infants are altricial, meaning that our babies are born early (in proportion to the length of their childhood) and helpless. This most likely has much to do with the significant “boot up” time that our evolutionarily expensive brains require to develop properly.