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Say It Right Series

Chinese Terms of Address for Relatives

Posted by bluehorizon June 11, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

The Spring Festival is the occasion for every Chinese family to get together. Do you know how people of different generations in the Chinese family address each other?

Parents address their children in two ways. One way is to call them, according to their age from the eldest to the youngest, lɑodɑ (the eldest), lɑoer (the second eldest), lɑosɑn (the third eldest) ... until the youngest (for example, lɑowu (the fifth)) regardless of sex. The second way is to call sons and daughters separately. Sons are called, from the eldest to the youngest, dɑ erzi (the eldest son), er erzi (the second eldest son) ... and the youngest is called xiɑo erzi. It is the same for the daughters who are called dɑ nü’er (the eldest daughter), er nü’er (the second eldest daughter) ... until xiɑo nü’er (the youngest daughter). The daughter-in-law is called erxi, and son-in-law is called nüxu. The wife of the eldest son is called dɑ erxi (the eldest daughter-in-law). The husband of the second eldest daughter is called er nüxu (the second eldest son-in-law).

Grandparents call the son’s children sunzi (grandson) or sunnü (granddaughter), the daughter’s children wɑisun (grandson) or waisunnü (granddaughter). “Wɑi” indicates they have a different surname, of different family name. Accordingly, the son’s children call grandparents yeye (paternal grandfather) and nɑinɑi (paternal grandmother). The daughter’s children call grandparents wɑigong (maternal grandfather) and wɑipo maternal grandmother), who in North China are also called lɑoye and lɑolao respectively.

The son, the daughter-in-law, the daughter and the son-in-law address the parents in the same way as bɑbɑ and mɑmɑ when talking to them (also die and niɑng in northern China). But in the absence of the parents, the daughter-in-law can call her husband’s parents gonggong (father-in-law) and popo (mother-in-law), and the son-in-law can call his wife’s parents yuefu and yuemu, or zhɑngren and zhɑngmuniɑng.

The terms of address for the siblings of father and mother are different. Father’s elder brother is called bobo (paternal uncle), and his younger brother shushu (paternal uncle), while his sisters are called gugu or gumɑ (paternal aunt). Mother’s brothers are all called jiujiu (maternal uncle), and her sisters i or yimɑ (maternal aunt). For example, “sɑnshu” is the third younger brother of father, and “dɑyi” is the mother’s eldest sister.

In daily life, some terms of address for the relatives are often used for non-relatives. For instance, the man a little older than father and mother is addressed as bobo, and the man younger shushu. Females are generally called ɑyi by younger people of the next generation. In Beijing and some other regions, they are also called dɑmɑ. Old people of grandfather’s and grandmother’s age can also be addressed as yeye and nɑinɑi.

So, have you gained some understanding of the Chinese terms of address for relatives?

Paternal                                                                                   Maternal

 

 

 

过年是每一个中国家庭团聚的日子。你知道在中国家庭中,几代人之间怎么互相称呼吗? 父母称呼孩子有两种方法。一种是不分男女,根据年龄从大到小称孩子们:老大、老二、老三……一直到最小的那一个(比如说老五)。第二种是分别排列儿子和女儿,儿子从大到小称为 :大儿子、二儿子……最小的叫做小儿子;女儿也是一样:大女儿、二女儿……一直到小女儿。称儿子的妻子儿媳(érxí,称女儿的丈夫女婿(nǚxu)”。比如:称大儿子的妻子大儿媳,称二女儿的丈夫二女婿老人称呼儿子的孩子叫孙子”“孙女,称呼女儿的孩子叫外孙”“外孙女就表示不同姓。同样,儿子的孩子称呼老人为爷爷”“奶奶,女儿的孩子称呼老人为外公”“外婆(北方也叫姥爷”“姥姥)。儿子、儿媳、女儿、女婿在跟父母说话时,对父母的称呼都是一样的,一般都叫爸爸”“妈妈(中国北方有些地区也叫diē”“niáng”)。但是在不直接面对父母的时候,儿媳可以称自己丈夫的父母为公公(ɡōnɡɡonɡ)”“婆婆(pópo)”,女婿可以称自己妻子的父母为岳父(yuèfù)”“岳母(yuèmǔ)”,也叫丈人(zhànɡren”“丈母娘(zhànɡmuniánɡ)”对爸爸和妈妈的兄弟姐妹,称呼是不一样的。爸爸的哥哥叫伯伯,爸爸的弟弟叫叔叔,而爸爸的姐妹称为姑姑(姑妈)。妈妈的兄弟都叫舅舅,妈妈的姐妹叫做 (姨妈)。比如三叔是爸爸的第三个弟弟,大姨是妈妈最大的姐姐。

在生活中,有些亲属称谓也常常用来称呼不是亲属的人。比如,比爸爸妈妈年龄大的男人可以叫伯伯,年龄小的叫叔叔;女人都可以叫阿姨,北京等地也可以叫大妈;跟爷爷奶奶年龄差不多的老人也都可以称呼为爷爷”“奶奶

现在,你了解中国人的亲属称谓了吗?

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