Kinship Terms in Spanish and English

Kinship Tems in Spanish and English

This is not a post on legal terminology per se, but there is so much potential for confusion with kinship terms that I thought it might be useful to reproduce two charts* below to perhaps clear up some of the most basic questions. (I also admit that after living in Spain for so many years “tío segundo” makes more sense to me than “first cousin, once removed.”)



*I would like to attribute authorship to these charts, but they appear on multiple websites, and I couldn’t find a copyright (©) on any of them.



3 thoughts on “Kinship Terms in Spanish and English

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    Very interesting post in both languages; however, in Mexico we use neither “primos carnales” for first cousins (we call them “primos hermanos”) nor “tíos carnales” (we call them simply “tíos); “carnal” is used mainly as a low slang word for “buddy.” Also, your charts include neither “concuños” nor “consuegros” (which are difficult to translate into English) and other relations that today are very common, such as “padrastro,” “madrastra,” “hermanastro,” “hijastro” and other derivatives of second and third marriages or civil unions.


    • Hi Javier,
      Thanks for your input. Anthropologists, genealogists, etc. use “primo carnal” and “tío carnal” in Spanish generally to distinguish degrees of kinship in family relations, but I agree that no one would normally refer to a cousin or uncle as his “primo (or) tío carnal.” I don’t know why “concuñados” and “consuegros” or step-relationships were omitted from the chart (As I noted in my blog post, these charts are not my own, and I wanted to attribute authorship but I couldn’t find their exact origin). But as you say, this may be because of the complexity involved in translating those terms. As for step-relative terms, these are problematic too since in Spain, at least, “padrastro,” “madrastra,” etc. have traditionally had a negative connotation. And I don’t believe there is (yet) a term for “step-relatives” in general, which might be described as “parientes derivados del vínculo matrimonial en segundas o siguientes nupcias” or something similar. If there is a Mexican term for step-relatives collectively, I would love to know!


  2. Rebecca,
    Interesting that you use “concuñados,” whereas we use “concuños.” This shows how the same language evolves in different countries. As far as I know, in Mexico, there is a lot of confusion regarding the names of relations derived from second or subsequent marriages, and people prefer to use only their Christian names!


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