Family Relationships in English – Explained in Simple Way

2018-11-22T22:23:07+00:00By |Vocabulary|

In this post, I’ve presented names of different family relationships (in English) in an easy-to-understand way. My approach has been to start with a key member of a family (father, mother, brother, sister, etc.) and mention all relationships that converge into her/ him.

(Note: the relationships themselves have been highlighted in maroon font for ease of browsing.)

See it for yourself.

1. Relations on the mother side of family tree

First off, a variant of mother herself. When a man remarries, his new wife is the stepmother of any children from his previous marriage.

Mother’s brother and male cousins: Uncle (and ‘aunt‘ for his wife)

Mother’s sister and female cousins: Aunt (and ‘uncle‘ for her husband)

Relations two generations older to you:

Mother’s father: Maternal grandfather

Mother’s mother: Maternal grandmother

Relations three generations older to you:

Mother of your grandparent: Great grandmother

Father of your grandparent: Great grandfather

2. Relations on the father side of family tree

First off, a variant of father himself. When a woman remarries, her new husband is the stepfather of any children from her previous marriage.

Father’s brother and male cousins: Uncle (and ‘aunt‘ for his wife)

Father’s sister and female cousins: Aunt (and ‘uncle‘ for her husband)

Relations two generations older to you:

Father’s father: Paternal grandfather

Father’s mother: Paternal grandmother

Relations three generations older to you:

Mother of your grandparent: Great grandmother

Father of your grandparent: Great grandfather

If you noticed, many of the relationships in English are quite straightforward. Siblings or cousins of your parents are called uncle or aunt (their spouses too go by the same name). This is so unlike relationships in many other languages. In Hindi, for example, father’s younger brother is called chacha (and his spouse chachi) and father’s older brother, tau (and his spouse tai). And this is just on the brother side. Father’s sister is called bua (and her spouse, phupha).

3. Your immediate family

Wife

Male child: Son or step-son (a son of one’s husband or wife from a previous marriage)

Female child: Daughter or step-daughter (a daughter of one’s husband or wife from a previous marriage)

Son’s wife: Daughter-in-law

Daughter’s husband: Son-in-law

Son’s or daughter’s son: Grandson

Son’s or daughter’s daughter: Granddaughter

4. Relations in the family of wife

(Wife is female spouse.)

Wife’s father: Father-in-law

Wife’s mother: Mother-in-law

Wife’s brother: Brother-in-law

Wife’s sister: Sister-in-law

(Note: Any relationship with ‘in-law’ in the end indicates that the relationship is by marriage and not by blood.)

5. Relations in the family of husband

(Husband is male spouse.)

Husband’s father: Father-in-law

Husband’s mother: Mother-in-law

Husband’s brother: Brother-in-law

Husband’s sister: Sister-in-law

6. Relations in the family of brother

(Brother is male sibling.)

The two variants of this (brother) relationship are:

  • Half-brother: You’re my half-brother if we’ve one parent in common, but not both.
  • Stepbrother: You’re my stepbrother if we’ve no parents in common, but one of our parents have married each other.

Here are the relationships in the family of your brother:

Brother’s wife: Sister-in-law

Brother’s daughter: Niece

Brother’s son: Nephew

7. Relations in the family of sister

(Sister is female sibling.)

The two variants of this (sister) relationship are:

  • Half-sister: You’re my half-sister if we’ve one parent in common, but not both.
  • Stepsister: You’re my stepsister if we’ve no parents in common, but one of our parents have married each other.

Here are the relationships in the family of your sister:

Sister’s husband: Brother-in-law

Sister’s daughter: Niece

Sister’s son: Nephew

If you noticed, brother-in-law is used for brother of your spouse as well as for husband of your sister. Similarly, sister-in-law is used for sister of your spouse as well as wife of your brother.

Just like the multifarious use of ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’, ‘nephew’ and ‘niece’ too are used for more than one relationship. In contrast, in Hindi, for example, sister’s son and daughter are called bhanja and bhanji, respectively. Whereas brother’s son and daughter are called bhatija and bhatiji, respectively. Most relationships are far more straightforward in English.

8. The special case of cousins

family tree explaining cousins

In the family tree above, X and Y are married and have children A0 and B0. A1 and B1 are their grandchildren. A2 and B2 are their great-grandchildren. And so on.

In this family, A0 and B0 are siblings (they share parents). A1 and B1 are first cousins (don’t have same parents, but share a grandparent). A2 and B2 are second cousins (don’t have same grandparents, but share a great-grandparent). A3 and B3 are third cousins (don’t have same great-grandparents, but share a great-great-grandparent). And so on.

First cousins, in simpler words, are children of your aunt or uncle.

Within few generations, the family tree gets too cumbersome to comprehend at a glance. Here is a proof:

Image source (Dick Cheney)

Barrack Obama (top), the former President of the United States, and Dick Cheney, the former Vice President, are cousins.

Eighth cousins!

Obama and Brad Pitt are ninth cousins.

And it gets weirder.

Obama and Bush, the two former Presidents representing opposite poles in the political spectrum, are tenth cousins.

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