All in the Family

How To Refer to Your Relatives

Familia en una playa de República Dominicana. (Family on a Dominican Republic beach.). Photo by Flickr user Photon_de used under terms of Creative Commons license.

Chances are that when you meet and first become acquainted with a native Spanish speaker in a social situation, one of the questions you'll be asked will concern your family. Depending on your age, you may be asked about your parents and what they do for a living, or you may be asked if you are married or have any children. Learn the words on this page as well as some words to describe your family members, then bring a photo along, and even if you're a beginner and know only simple grammar, you can engage in conversation.

Keep in mind that masculine plurals in Spanish can refer to mixed groups of males and females. Thus cuatro hijos can mean either "four sons" or "four children," depending on the context.

And while it may sound strange to the ear attuned to English, padres is a grammatically correct way to refer to both of one's parents. Also note that the word pariente means "relative" in general; it doesn't refer only to parents.

Here are the names for the most common relatives and some of the uncommon ones:

  • padre: father
  • madre: mother
  • hermano: brother
  • hermana: sister
  • suegro: father-in-law
  • suegra: mother-in-law
  • cuñado: brother-in-law
  • cuñada: sister-in-law
  • esposo, marido: husband
  • esposa, mujer: wife
  • abuelo: grandfather
  • abuela: grandmother
  • bisabuelo: great-grandfather
  • bisabuela: great-grandmother
  • tatarabuelo: great-great-grandfather
  • tatarabuela: great-great-grandmother
  • hijo: son
  • hija: daughter
  • nieto: grandson
  • nieta: granddaughter
  • bisnieto: great-grandson
  • bisnieta: great-granddaughter
  • tataranieto: great-great-grandson
  • tataranieta: great-great-granddaughter
  • tío: uncle
  • tía: aunt
  • tío abuelo: great-uncle
  • tía abuela: great-aunt
  • primo: cousin (male)
  • prima: cousin (female)
  • primo carnal, prima carnal, primo hermano, prima hermana: first cousin
  • primo segundo, prima segunda: second cousin
  • sobrino: nephew
  • sobrina: niece
  • padrastro: stepfather
  • madrastra: stepmother
  • hijastro: stepson
  • hijastra: stepdaughter
  • hermanastro: stepbrother
  • hermanastra: stepsister
  • medio hermano, hermano de padre, hermano de madre: half brother
  • media hermana, hermana de padre, hermana de madre: half sister
  • concuñado: husband of one's spouse's sister
  • concuñada: wife of one's spouse's brother
  • consuegro: father-in-law of one's son or daughter
  • consuegra: mother-in-law of one's son or daughter
  • prometido, novio: fiance, boyfriend, groom
  • prometida, novia: fiancee, girlfriend, bride
  • compañero: male partner in a couple relationship
  • compañera: female partner in a couple relationship
  • padrino: godfather
  • madrina: godmother
  • ahijado: godson
  • ahijada: goddaughter
  • amigo: friend (male)
  • amiga: friend (female)
  • conocido: acquaintance (male)
  • conocida: acquaintance (female)
In all cases, the names for male relatives are masculine, and the names for female relatives are feminine. Mixed groups use the masculine form.

Also, the term la familia política may be used as the equivalent of "the in-laws."

Here are some simple sample sentences you can use as models for your own:

  • Mi padre es carpintero. My father is a carpenter.
  • Mi tía es dentista. My aunt is a dentist.
  • Mi madre es ama de casa. My mother is a housewife.
  • Tengo dos hermanos y una hermana. I have two brothers and a sister.
  • Tengo nueve tíos. I have nine aunts and uncles.
  • Mi madrastra vive en el estado de Nueva York. My stepmother lives in New York state.
  • Mis sobrinas viven en Chicago. My nieces live in Chicago.
  • Mi padre está muerto. My father is dead.
  • Mi prima está muerta. My cousin (female) is dead.
  • Mi madre está viva. My mother is alive.