It’s All Relative

Chinese relative titles are notoriously complicated. In English there is only one word for the sister (or sister-in-law) of a parent : aunt. There is also only one word for the child of a parent’s sibling: cousin. This simplicity doesn’t exist in Chinese; traditionally, Chinese people lived in extended families, so knowing and acknowledging how someone was related to someone else was very important.

So, I have tried to compile a list of sorts to clarify (for me as well as anyone who wants to read it):

Note: I will mostly use colloquial Chinese, and sometimes what I write here will differ from what you are used to saying.

Immediate Family

  • Parents
    • Father: 爸爸
    • Mother: 妈妈
  • Siblings
    • Older brother: 哥哥
    • Younger brother: 弟弟
    • Older sister: 姐姐
    • Younger sister: 妹妹


Father’s side

  • Parents
    • Father: 爷爷
    • Mother: 奶奶
  • Siblings (and Spouses)
    • Older brother: 伯伯
    • Older brother’s wife: 伯母
    • Younger brother: 叔叔
    • Younger brother’s wife: 婶婶
    • Sister: 姑姑
    • Sister’s Husband: 姑夫
  • Sibling’s Children
    • Brother’s Children (meaning they have the same last name): 唐 (哥,弟,姐,妹)
    • Sister’s Children (meaning they don’t have the same last name): 表 (哥,弟,姐,妹)


Mother’s side

  • Parents
    • Father: 公公
    • Mother: 婆婆
  • Siblings (and Spouses)
    • Brother: 舅舅
    • Brother’s wife: 舅妈
    • Older Sister: 姨妈
    • Older Sister’s Husband: 姨爹
    • Younger Sister: 阿姨
    • Younger Sister’s Husband: 小姨爹
  • Sibling’s Children
    • (since none of them have the same last name) 表 (哥,弟,姐,妹)

Ummm in-laws quite complicated and I have homework, so let’s assume we’re not married and neither are our siblings. 😛


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