If you want to know how close and extended family members are addressed in China, you are at the right place.
Close family members are Dad, mom, sisters, and brothers. Extended family members are uncles, aunt grandfather, and grandmothers on both sides. Today we will learn how to name them, and I can bet you will find it very interesting.
Why address people by title?
Because in the Chinese culture like many other cultures around the world, calling older people than ourselves and older generations directly by their name is considered to be impolite. You can call people younger than you by their name but you can’t directly say the names of people older than you. It goes the same when you want to address relatives with respect, and I must admit, the titles in Chinese are very nice to hear. For example, if you want to address the mother-in-law of your son, you have to say 亲家母 (qìng jiā mǔ) which I feel very warm to hear.
Close family members
爸爸(bà ba): For your dad. Your father-in-law.
妈妈(mā mā): For your mom and your mother-in-law.
哥哥(gē gē): For your elder brother. If you have many brothers, the oldest one is called 大哥 (dà gē), the second one 二哥 (èr gē) and so on.
弟弟(dì di): For your younger brother. You can also say he’s name and saying the name is most common.
姐姐(jiě jie): For your elder sister. If you have many sisters, the oldest one is called 大姐 (dà jiě), the second one 二姐 (èr jiě) and so on.
妹妹(mèi mei): For your younger sister. You can also say her name and calling by the name is most common.
If you are a man
老婆(lǎo pó), or 媳妇儿(xí fu er): For your wife.
爸爸(bà ba): For your father-in-law.
妈妈(mā mā): For your mother-in-law.
姨妹(yí mèi),小姨(xiǎo yí): For your wife’s younger sister.
姨姐(yí jiě): For your wife’s elder sister.
If you are a woman
老公(lǎo gōng): For your husband. I find this one very cute.
婆婆(pó po): For your mother-in-law.
公公(gōng gong): For your father-in-law.
Grandfathers and grandmothers
爷爷(yé ye): For paternal grandfather.
外公(wài gōng): For maternal grandfather.
奶奶(nǎi nai): For paternal grandmother.
外婆(wàipó): For maternal grandmother.
Dad’s brothers and sisters
伯伯(bó bo),or 伯父(bó fù): For dad’s brothers.
伯母(bó mǔ): For dad’s brother’s wife.
姑姑(gū gū),or 姑妈(gū mā),or 古母(gū mǔ): For dad’s sisters.
姑父(gū fu),or 姑丈(gūzhàng),or 姑夫(gūfū): For dad’s sister’s husband.
Mom’s brothers and sisters
叔叔(shū shu),or 叔父(shū fu): For mom’s older brothers.
叔母(shū mǔ): For mom’s older brother’s wife.
舅舅(jiù jiu),or 舅父(jiù fù): for mom’s younger brothers.
舅妈(jiù mā),or 舅母(jiù mǔ): For mom’s younger brother’s wife.
姨妈(yí mā),or 姨母(yí mǔ),or姨娘(yí niáng): For mom’s sisters.
姨父(yí fu),or姨夫(yí fū),or姨丈(yí zhàng): For mom’s sister’s husband.
表哥(biǎo gē): For older male cousins.
表姐(biǎo jiě): For older female cousins.
表妹(biǎo mèi): For younger female cousins.
表弟(biǎo dì): For younger male cousins;
Great uncles and great aunts
伯叔祖父(bó shū zǔ fù),or 叔公(shū gōng): For your paternal great uncle. Or your paternal grandfather’s brothers
伯叔祖母(bó shū zǔ mǔ): For your paternal great uncle’s wife. Or your paternal grandfather’s brother’s wife.
姑奶奶(gū nǎi nai): For your paternal great aunt. Or your paternal grandfather’s sister.
姨奶奶(yí nǎi nai): For your paternal great aunt. Or your paternal grandmother’s sister.
姨姥姥(yí lǎo lǎo): For your maternal great aunt. Or your maternal grandmother’s sister.
I went through the one you will often encounter and I already feel a little bit dizzy. I can assure you it was not easy to put it together. I definitely didn’t catch them all, however, from these, you can have a pretty good idea of how to call a very tricky family member’s title. If you can’t still figure it out, you can still Baidu it, I found that many people on the internet make a mix of their own name when they are not sure 姨爷爷 (yí yé ye) (Dad’s mother’s sister’s husband) and 姑爷爷 (gū yé ye )(Dad’s father’s sister’s husband). That is how rich is the Chinese language, when you are good enough, you can make your own words out of a few characters and the word totally makes sense.