With sad regularity, it seems someone comes to the site looking for "the word" for some very specific relationship. Recently, it was What is the English word for husband of the daughter of my brother?. This morning there is Question Regarding Relationships, asking "how someone calls the person whom their husbands are biological brothers?"

Of course, English isn't very rich in such kinship terms, so the answer is usually "there isn't one; you have to spell it all out" or "it's the same as the name for these other relationships, and then you have to spell out the details". In fact, the first cited question was closed as a duplicate of Paucity of words for relationships.

I think it makes sense to have a single answer where we direct these kinds of questions. The problem is, while useful and interesting, the "duplicate" doesn't actually provide a usable answer for these questioners. The answers there answer the question asked, focusing on "why" and not the terms English speakers actually use.

So, my question: would it be appropriate to make a "model" question of this sort, with a model answer, which could be used as the duplicate for this kind of question?

I would make it a community-wiki question, and while I would also provide an answer I would expect that others could/should chime in to clarify language/correct errors/add helpful information. For example, there may be some obscure/obsolete English terms for specific relationships that would be of interest to "language enthusiasts" even if not all that usable in everyday life.

So, yea or nay? If yea, is there anything in particular I should take into consideration?

Edited to add, for those who want an answer to the question in the title:

Dark Helmet: I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.

Lone Starr: What's that make us?

Dark Helmet: Absolutely nothing!

From Spaceballs.

And to do the "math" (assuming traditional heterosexual norms of monogamous marriage and reproduction, i.e. all siblings have the same set of two biological parents, one male and one female, who are married to one another; and also assuming that unmodified "cousin" means first cousin):

  1. Your father's brother is your uncle.

  2. Your uncle's nephew can be either:

    1. You
    2. Your brother
    3. Your first cousin on your father's side (son of another sibling of your father and uncle, but not the son of your uncle—that would be your uncle's son, not his nephew)
    4. Your "cousin-in-law" (your uncle's wife's sibling's son)
  3. There are, by my count, six possible relationships between you and your father's brother's nephew's cousin:

    1. You yourself (cousin of 2.3)
    2. Your brother (ditto)
    3. Your first paternal cousin (cousin of 2.1, 2.2, or 2.3—either your uncle's son or the son of another sibling of both your father and uncle)
    4. Your first maternal cousin (cousin of 2.1 or 2.2)
    5. Your "cousin-in-law" (cousin of 2.3, on the other side of the family; not a close blood relative, unless you've got a family tree that circles back on itself)
    6. Your paternal uncle's wife's sibling's spouse's son (cousin of 2.4; not a close blood relative of you or your cousin)
  4. And of course, the cousin's former roommate could be just about anybody.

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  • 4
    Hah, yes, they do sound similar! I was thinking of this, though, so anongoodnurse's title is much more original.
    – 1006a
    Jun 16, 2017 at 15:50
  • @1006a it is not "anongoodnurse's title" but a horrific single-word-request question that some(busy)body actually asked here a few months back [question was later deleted and anongoodnurse's link goes to "this Q was deleted" page.] Jun 17, 2017 at 1:07
  • @EnglishStudent I'm pretty sure it actually is anongoodnurse's clever take on various similar questions; the deleted question has a different title—also horrific, but in a different way and not related to this one. (Once you reach a certain reputation, I think with mod tools at 10,000, you can actually see the deleted questions and answers.)
    – 1006a
    Jun 17, 2017 at 1:58
  • @1006a now I get it! I was somewhat confused till I saw that anongoodnurse had asked that meta Q nearly 3 years ago. I am glad it wasn't an actual single-word-request someone asked here at ELU! Jun 17, 2017 at 2:04
  • There's really no need for canonical questions and their answers to be community wiki. Jun 17, 2017 at 11:13
  • Chiming in now ... the generic answer is nth cousin m-times removed. It doesn't quite capture the colour of terms from languages with a rich kinship vocabulary, though.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:51
  • A good suggestion, I think, I just asked this question a few hours ago! And as for the title, the answer could be "my former roommate", if "my father" has at least two other siblings.
    – justhalf
    Jun 28, 2017 at 15:23
  • And another new one: english.stackexchange.com/q/500161/49890
    – shoover
    May 29, 2019 at 23:16

3 Answers 3


I like the idea of having a canonical (or what's the word for that) question, which can be made community wiki so that all of us can contribute to it. We already have such questions, and we close later questions as duplicates.

Go ahead, and make a community wiki question for whatever family relationship terms exist in English, and we can close others as duplicates.

  • 1
    I agree, such a reference page would probably be beneficial.
    – Hank
    Jun 16, 2017 at 14:14
  • Why not give a community wiki answer at the 'paucity' question?
    – Mitch
    Jun 16, 2017 at 14:16
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    @Mitch It seems weird to me to intentionally give a completely non-responsive answer to a perfectly on-topic question. Also, would the "this question already has an answer" link to that answer, or only to the question? If the latter, the accepted answer will generally show on top to new users, which of course would not be the answer to these questions. It would make more sense to me to link to that question in a question specifically about what to call people. But propose it as an answer, and if folks think it's the better option we can do it that way.
    – 1006a
    Jun 16, 2017 at 14:19
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    @1006a The "This question already has an answer" banner only links to the target question.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jun 16, 2017 at 14:50
  • @Mitch: because this isn't SF&F, so (unlike them) we know that answers can't magically make completely different questions into duplicates. (Otherwise known as "if you find yourself wanting to link your duplicate candidate to an answer rather than a question, you're Doing It Wrong".)
    – Marthaª
    Jun 26, 2017 at 21:50
  • @Marthaª I'm slow and not sure exactly what you're suggesting so please be explicit and say what you think should happen. We can move things around as needed.
    – Mitch
    Jun 26, 2017 at 23:00
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    @Mitch: since --even if you could in theory post an answer that kinda-sorta covers both-- the paucity question is a different question than "what's the word for my aunt's second cousin's nephew's neighbor twice removed", I think posting a new canonical question is the way to go.
    – Marthaª
    Jun 27, 2017 at 0:05

It feels strange to create a new question specifically to be answered as a reference question especially when there exist questions with answers and duplicate questions already.

There already are some canonical high-quality 'kinship term' questions

Either of these (or both, or more) can be added to the list of FAQs and canonical posts.

As a side note to the content of these kinship term questions, there is a distinction within how to label a given relationship. There is whether there is single word for it and if not how best/most succinctly describe it.

As to the general situation, when a number of similar questions is asked about an area, one of these is already usually the better or most prior one. Why the need to create an arbitrary new question/answer?

As to community wiki, that is pretty irrelevant, one can always add a new answer or edit an existing one. Making them community wiki doesn't incentivize editing one way or the other.

  • @NVZ Whatever happens with the meta-qn, I created a community wiki answer at Paucity which can be edited/moved/whatever
    – Mitch
    Jun 16, 2017 at 18:52
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    The second question seems like a better fit than the paucity one, but still a little more narrowly focused than what I was envisioning. I think my main objection to this approach is that when we say "your question already has an answer here" it would be best if the link goes somewhere that obviously makes sense. For that to work, the question itself ought to match more closely what askers are expecting than either of these do, and the "model" answer ought not to be below a completely different, accepted answer.
    – 1006a
    Jun 16, 2017 at 19:36

The existing tag-wiki for kinship-terms would be the place I recommend to provide detailed, community-edited background information.

Only SE regulars may even notice the tags, so I can understand the objection that the tag alone is insufficiently visible. There is nothing to prevent us, however, from adding a reference link to it in the body of the existing accepted and/or highly voted answer itself.

This way, we avoid adulterating the Q&A format, particularly in a thread that new users will frequent, while also improving visibility of the tagging system. Because tag wikis have a higher reputation threshhold for unmoderated edits than community wiki posts, we also theoretically have better quality control while retaining the ability of community members to contribute.

  • Can you elaborate on how the proposed question and answer would adulterate the Q&A format? Is it just the Community-wiki-ness that's a problem, or the idea of such a question in general?
    – 1006a
    Jun 16, 2017 at 19:58
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    @1006a Simply, if it doesn't answer the original question, then it doesn't belong as an answer. If we want to answer the question "What are the kinship terms in English," that's a different story.
    – choster
    Jun 16, 2017 at 20:13
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    That's approximately what I was anticipating as the question, actually—something like "What are the common terms for familial relationships in English, and how do we describe a relationship or relation that isn't obviously included in those terms?" with maybe a side-helping of "and are there any more obscure or obsolete terms that could be used?" It would be kind of a list-y question, which I think makes it a better fit for a wiki.
    – 1006a
    Jun 16, 2017 at 20:54
  • @1006a You might make it a slightly less listy question with "I know the common terms are X,Y, Z... but other languages also have words for A, B, C, which don't appear to have common single words in English. Do those in fact have English equivalents? How do I construct a suitable term in English? Do I just have to describe, or can I use an existing common term, or what?"
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jun 16, 2017 at 22:57
  • The Genealogy and Family History SE site has an answer to the general question at genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/6818/…
    – Xanne
    Jul 1, 2017 at 4:36

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