Relationship Terms


ADOPTED: Adopted means that a person is not blood kin, but has been legally (or commonly) accepted and added as a family member. This primarily occurs when adults adopt children that are not their own. In many cases, not only does the child have their birth-surname changed, but their first and middle names as well. There are many forms of adoption. Some are legal (done as per laws of the land -- such as adopting an orphan), some are "common law" (just done and accepted by everyone -- such as raising your nephew as your son) and some are circumstantial (such as someone just taking on a surname or being forced to take on a surname, like slaves). When tracing your family tree you can not be selective about who you include. Adoption -- essentially -- means nothing more than a person being assigned a new surname (unless they all ready carried the same surname). When a woman marries and her name changes, she has absolutely no blood line involved in her new surname until she has children. When she has children, she continued the family name of her husband (not her own -- usually). The same applies to slaves. They were given the name and then carried it on. No different. However, when one is legally adopted, they become a descendant of the adoptive parents. They are 'authorized' to carry on the family name and bloodline (?). They become heirs to estates, and even thrones. Thus, adoption is a lot more involved than one would think. 

ASCENDANT:  See Ancestor.

ANCESTOR: These are people who you have descended from. This term is used to describe your deceased relatives. Your ancestors are your pedigree. Your father and mother, their fathers and mothers and so on. An individual who came before.

AUNT: This is a female relative. She is the sister of your parental ancestors (father, mother, grandparents, etc.). Some children refer to close female friends (of their parents) as an Aunt, all though there is not any true familial relationship. You would be her (your aunts) niece or nephew. Other terms: Auntie, Aunty. The biggest controversy here is whether you pronounce it: "ANT" or "AHHNT."

BEAU: See boyfriend.

BETTER HALF: This is a slang term often used, sarcastically, in reference to one's spouse. As in, "...and this is my better half." In todays world of confused relationships, it is also used outside of wedlock.

BLOOD: Blood is sometimes used to specify how someone is related to you. "Blood kin" would be someone who is kin to you by birth. There are also "blood brothers" (or sisters) -- which is not a true blood relationship. Rather, it is a pact or bond sealed by the sharing of each other's blood (by intentionally cutting the skin and allowing the blood of both person's to mix). With the prevalence of HIV, Hepatitis and other diseases -- this is a dangerous bond to make.

BOYFRIEND: This is a male companion of no true relation. This term is most often used to describe a male sweetheart.

BROTHER: This is a male relative. A brother is a male child that shares common parent(s) or marries your sibling. If you both have a parent in common, this male is your brother (see half and step). If this male marries your sibling, he is also your brother (see in-law). Some people refer to good friends, or people with something in common with themselves (like race, religion, on the same team, etc.), as their brother(s) -- all though there is no true relation there. Other references: Bro. 

COLLATERAL: Collateral relatives are all relatives who are not some type of parental figure to you (father, mother, grandparent, etc.). Aunts, uncles cousins, etc. -- are collateral relatives (despite the fact that it is your parents that usually sign on a loan with you, as collateral -- haha). Their lineages will be different from yours until you run into a common ancestor. Example, you and a 3rd cousin would have entirely different lineages until you both get back to your common g2-grandparents.

COUSIN: A cousin is someone you share a common grandparent(s) (great, etc.) with. This also means one of your parents (grand, great, etc.) is the sibling to one of their parents (grand, great, etc.). Other references: Cuz, Cuzzin (ha!). See also: Removed and First, Second, Third, Etc..

DAUGHTER: This is a female relative. A daughter is your female child. This person may be your natural daughter or your daughter by adoption, marriage, etc.. Some people refer to younger females as their daughter, when the relationship is close ("She is like a daughter to me.").

DESCENDANT: This would be your offspring and their offspring. You descended from your parents and you are one of their descendants. It is a term that refers to all people who came after any person in question. That person's kids, their kids, their kid's kids and so on. Those who came after.

EX: "EX" is a prefix used to describe a relationship that no longer exists or is no longer valid. Such as "EX-WIFE" or "EX-MOTHER-IN-LAW." The term is most often used to refer to an ex-wife or ex-husband, but can apply to all other relationships as well. In fact, when used by itself ("That is my ex."), it is understood to mean ex-wife, ex-husband or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.

EXTENDED FAMILY: This term may, or may not, refer to actual family. Most commonly it is a reference to just your spouse and children and your children's children. It is also commonly used to refer to people, kin or not, outside of you spouse and children that are "like" family -- or good friends. Such as a teacher referring to her students as her extended family.

FATHER: This is a male relative. This is the person who had a relationship with your mother that resulted in your birth. It can also be someone who plays the role of your father, all though he may not be your natural father. This term is also commonly used in religious circles as a title (rather than to describe a relationship). Another term, "Daddy," is often used as a dominance term. Other references: Pop, Dad, Daddy, Old man, Pops, etc.

FIRST, SECOND, THIRD, ETC.: We have all heard the term "first cousin," "second cousin" and so forth. The question is how to determine the number. This terminology is used to define these relationships (I suppose you could adapt it to other relationship's, as well). The children of brothers/sisters are 1st Cousins to each other. The children of these first cousins are 2nd Cousins to each other. The children of these second cousins are 3rd cousins to each other, and so on. The key here, is that they are on the same generational line. Another way to look at it is that 1st cousins have a common grandparent, 2nd cousins have a common great-grandparent, third cousins have a common great-great-grandparent and so forth. See also: Removed. See the Relationship Chart or use the Cousin Calculator to figure an exact relationship between two relatives.

FRIEND: A friend is a person you have a close association with, but no familial relationship. Some people more loosely define a friend as someone they know (close association or not), on good terms or through regular contact (like at work). Genealogically speaking, it is common to refer to the parents of a child, who were unmarried, as "friends." Real good friends (haha).  

GENERATION:  A generation can not be accurately measured in years and is hard to describe. A generation is simply a group of people that came from the generation, or group of people, before. The children of one family would be the current ("now") generation. Their parents are the next generation back or the previous generation. Their parent's parents are the generation before that, and so on. Perhaps you can describe it as a set of children. Generations are hard to define because, after a few generations, you can find people on the same "generational line" who are quite a few years apart in age. This happens because some people have children earlier in life than others. Generations can "generally" be measured in a span of 14 - 21 years spans.

GIRLFRIEND: This is a female companion, of no true relation. It is most often used to describe the male's female sweetheart, when they are unmarried. It is also commonly used by other girls to describe their female friends.

GOD: This is not a reference to the All Mighty. It is an honorary title. The prefix "GOD" is added to another relationship title, like "FATHER," to create an honorary title -- like Godfather. It is most commonly used in this fashion: Godfather or Godmother. It can be used in conjunction with other familial titles (like God Aunt or God Uncle). This title is usually awarded out of love, to close family friends who have no true relationship -- or people chosen to be responsible for children should the parents become unable to.

GRAND: Grand is a prefix added to represent one generation of separation. Your father's father, for instance, is still a father to you. However, there is one generation between the two of you, so he is a grandfather to you -- and you are a grandchild to him. This term is most commonly applied to fathers and mothers, but it can also be used to define other relationships. Such as a Grand Uncle or Grand Aunt (your grandparent's brother or sister).

GREAT: Great is a prefix that is added to represent 2 generations of separation. If Grand is one generation of separation, then Great-grand (i.e. great-grandmother) is two generations of separation. For every generation of separation, above one (Grand), there is a "Great" added to represent each additional generation of separation. Your father's grandfather is 3 generations separated from you, so he would be your Great-Great-Grandfather. The Grand and two Greats represent the 3 generations of separation. This prefix can also be used to define other 2-plus generational relationships, like Great Aunt, or Great Uncle. As noted, the "Grand" is more commonly left out (Great Aunt instead of Great Grand Aunt) when referring to relationships other than father and mother. It is common, once you go beyond a Great-Great-Grandparent, to refer to the "Greats" by number. For instance, your Great-Great-Great-Grandfather would be called your 3rd Great-Grandfather and written as G3-Grandfather, GGG-Grandfather or some similar.

HALF: This term really only applies to siblings. If you have a brother or sister, that only has one parent in common with you, then they are your half-brother or half-sister. For instance, you may have the same father but different mother's. Of course, you could extend this to define relationships with your half-brother's/half-sisters' relations -- such as half-uncle, etc.

HUSBAND: This is your male companion, who is related to you only because you married him.

IMMEDIATE FAMILY: This term is used to describe your spouse and children, only. They are your immediate family.

IN-LAW: This term is used to define how you are related to your spouse's family and relatives. It is most commonly used to describe your relationship to your spouse's immediate family. That is, his/her parents and siblings. Such as Father-in-law, Sister-in-law and so forth. This specifies that you are only kin to these people by marriage. The term can also be utilized to describe your relationship to her extended family (such as Cousin-in-law, Aunt-in-law, etc.).

ISSUE: See child.

KIN: See relative.

LIFE PARTNER: This term is used to describe gay relationships. When two males or females live together as mates, they call themselves life partners (no husband, no wife -- or you might say two husbands or two wives). However, it is not unknown for unmarried male/female couples to refer to themselves in this manner, also.

MARRIAGE: Marriage is a legally recognized union between two people. It is not always "officially" documented and recognized in the same manner through out all countries and religions (or States for that matter). I mention this term because some people define a relationship by stating they are only kin "by marriage" -- meaning they would not be kin at all but for the fact that their spouse is kin to the other person. In other words, they are only kin to this person because they married someone, who is (which is often inaccurate, as you still may not be kin to them, anyway). Another misnomer is that marriage is a holy union. While this is true to the extent that vows are exchanged before God, wedding vows are not found in the Bible.

MOTHER: This is a female relative. This is the person that gave birth to you. It can also be someone who has accepted the role but is not your natural mother. Religious circles also use them term as a title (rather than a relationship). It is sometimes used as an insult towards others, despite their sex. Other references: Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma, etc.

NEPHEW: This is a male relative. This is the son of your brother or sister. You would be their aunt or uncle.

NIECE: This is a female relative. This is the daughter of your brother or sister. You would be their aunt or uncle.

NATURAL: Natural is a term often used to define a relationship -- especially when a relationship is unclear or a substitute relationship has occurred. You might say someone is your "natural father," when you recognize someone else as your father (as they play that role in your life). Such as in an adoption or second marriage by your mother.

OFFSPRING: See child.

PARENT: This is one of two people that had a relationship that resulted in your birth. A mother and a father. It can also be someone who plays the role of your father or mother, all though they may not be your natural father/mother.

PEDIGREE: Your pedigree is your line of ancestry. All of your mother/father type relatives. Grandmother, great grandfather, mother, father and so forth.

RELATIVE: A relative is someone that is kin to you by blood, marriage or adoption. See the Relationship Chart or use the Cousin Calculator to figure an exact relationship between two relatives.

REMOVED: When the word "removed" is used to describe a relationship, it indicates that the two people are from different generations. You and your first cousins are in the same generation (two generations younger than your grandparents), so the word "removed" is not used to describe your relationship.

The words "once removed" mean that there is a difference of one generation. For example, your mother's first cousin is your first cousin, once removed. This is because your mother's first cousin is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents. This one-generation difference equals "once removed."

Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. You are two generations younger than a first cousin of your grandmother, so you and your grandmother's first cousin are first cousins, twice removed.

Confused yet? See the Relationship Chart or use the Cousin Calculator to figure an exact relationship between two relatives.

SIBLING: A sibling is someone that you have a parent(s) -- natural or not -- in common with. Your brother(s) and sister(s).

SISTER: This is a female relative. This is a girl you share a common parent(s) with. This term is also used to describe unrelated associations with a female, or between females (like in religious groups, shared race, members of the same team...).

SON: This is a male relative. This is your male child. It can also be someone that you have accepted in that role, such as through adoption or marriage. This term is often used by older people when referring to younger males, especially older men talking to young men.

SPOUSE: This is your mate. Companion. Male or female.

STEP: Step is a term used to define a familial relationship that is not by blood (natural) and does not fall into the "in-law" category (since it is not a result of you getting married). It is most commonly applied to father, mother, brother and sister -- but it can be used with other relationships as well (aunt, uncle...). A "Step" relation is one that exists only because of marriage, but does not fall into the in-law category. If you mother divorces your natural father and remarries, her new husband will now be your Step-father. If he has any kids from a previous relationship, they become your step-brothers and step-sisters. Your step-father's brothers and sisters become your step-uncles and step-aunts. And so on.

UNCLE: This is a male relative. He is the brother to your mother or father. You would be his niece or nephew. 

WIFE: This is a female relative to a male. This is your female companion, who you are related to only because you married her.