Words index  Vivian Cook

Words for Relatives

Everybody in the world in a sense has the same number of biological relatives; you canít escape from your relatives. However different languages talk about these in different ways. English does not make several distinctions that are vital to family relationships in other countries.

For example English does not distinguish between your motherís family and your fatherís so that your fatherís father and your motherís father are both your grandfather; Swedish however calls your motherís father morfar, your fatherís father farfar, your motherís father morfar and your fatherís father farfar. Thai and Hindi also make this distinction. Of course some dialects or individual English families do talk about say their nana and their nan. And of course if we want to be precise we can talk about our maternal grandmother rather than our paternal grandmother but this would not be exactly everyday language.

The same with your aunts and uncles; one word for each in English, a different word for your fatherís sister and the motherís sister, in Swedish faster and moster.

But this is still more complicated by the fact that many languages also recognise seniority by age; so in Thai, your fatherís elder sister is your pa, your fatherís younger sister or  brother is your are, your fatherís elder brother is your lung, your fatherís younger is your are as well. All of this covered by aunt and uncle in English (and we havenít even looked at the words for the motherís brothers and sisters).  

 

English

swedish

Thai

Female
parent

mother

mor

mae

Male
parent

father

far

phor

Motherís
male
parent

grand-
father

morfar

dta

Fatherís
male
parent

grand-
father

farfar

pu

Motherís
female
parent

grand-mother

mormor

ya

Fatherís
female
parent

grand-mother

farmor

yai

Fatherís
brother

uncle

farbror

 

Motherís
brother

uncle

morbror

 

Fatherís
sister

aunt

faster

 

Motherís
sister

aunt

moster

 

Fatherís
elder brother

-

 

lung

Fatherís
younger
brother
or sister

-

 

are

Fatherís
elder
sister

-

 

pa

Saying No    Seeing Colours    Basic English

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