How to refer to all the family members in Spanish
If you have Spanish friends or family, you’ll soon realise that large family gatherings are an important part of life in Spain, particularly during big holidays.
To help you remember how to refer to everyone or to know who everyone is talking about, we’ve put together a little guide to family members in Spanish.
As we move away from the immediate family, it gets slightly more complicated, but let’s start with the easy ones.
Madre is of course the word for mother, but Spanish children often use other words too including mamá, mami and ma. To use it in a sentence for example you might say ‘Mi mamá es la mejor’ (my mum is the best).
Padre is the Spanish for father and is often also called other words such as papá, papi and pa. Remember to put the accent on the end of papá otherwise you’ll be writing el Papa, meaning the Pope or la papa, meaning the potato. Example: ‘A mi papá le gusta el helado’ (my dad likes ice cream).
To refer to both parents at once, you would say padres.
Esposo/a – Husband or wife. For husband, you can also say marido, but you shouldn’t refer to your wife as a ‘marida’. She would be your mujer or esposa instead.
Example: ‘Este es mi esposo’ (This is my husband).
Pareja – Partner. Not everyone in Spain gets married of course, so to describe your partner you just use pareja, regardless of whether it’s a man or a woman. To say boyfriend or girlfriend, you say novio/a. Example: Mi pareja tiene un viaje de negocios. My partner has a business trip.
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Hermano/a – Brother or sister depending on if it ends in the masculine ‘o’ or the feminine ‘a’. Remember that for almost all the terms below, if you use the masculine plural version such as hermanos, it will refer to both your male and female relatives. Example: ‘Mi hermana es mayor que yo’ (My sister is older than me).
Hijo/hija – Son or daughter, again depending on what ending you use. You may also hear mijo or mija used by Spanish mothers, which is a shortened version of mi hijo or mi hija. Example: ‘A su hijo le gusta leer’ (His son likes to read).
Abuelo/a – Grandpa or grandma. You may also use the diminutive terms abuelito or abuelita, or the shortened version abu. Different regions and different families may often also use other terms, such as yaya for granny or nanna or yayo for poppa. Example: ‘Mis abuelos viven en Francia’ (my grandparents live in France).
Tío/a – Uncle or aunt. Be careful with this one though as you’ll often hear people referring to each other as tío or tía in everyday speech when the person they’re talking to is not even a relation of theirs. It’s just a colloquial slang term to use when talking to friends. A colloquial way of referring to your aunt or uncle in Spanish is also tita or tito, as well as los titos to refer to the two of them or other uncles and aunts. Example: ‘Mi tía es escritora’ (my aunt is a writer)
Primo/a – Cousin. If you are referring to your cousins in general you can use primos. A first cousin is a primo carnal or primo/a hermano/a, whereas a second cousin is a primo/a segundo/a. It can sometimes be used as slang to refer to a friend, in the same vein as tío/a. Example: ‘Mis primos tienen una casa grande’ (my cousins have a big house).
Sobrino/a – nephew or niece. Again for both of them, you can use the masculine sobrinos. You can also shorten it to sobri, applicable to either both sexes.
Example: ‘Tengo 7 sobrinos’ (I have 7 nephews and nieces).
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Nieto/a – Grandson or granddaughter. A great-grandson or great-granddaughter is bisnieto or bisnieta. Example: ‘Su nieta es una famosa bailarina’ (Her granddaughter is a famous ballerina).
Bisabuelo/a – Great-grandfather or great-grandmother.
Example: ‘Mi bisabuela cumplirá 100 años el próximo año’ (My great-grandmother will turn 100 next year).
Tatarabuelo/a – Great-great grandfather or grandmother. If you want to go further back you keep on adding more tatatas to refer to great-great-great grandparents. Example: ‘Mi tatarabuelo viajó a España desde Chile’ (my great-great grandfather travelled to Spain from Chile).
Suegro/a – Father or mother-in-law. Example: ‘Mi suegra hizo el pastel para nuestra boda’ (My mother-in-law made the cake for our wedding).
Cuñado/a – Brother or sister in law. Example: ‘A mi cuñado le gusta ir de pesca’ (My brother-in-law likes to go fishing).
Familia política – In-laws. It may seem bizarre to refer to your in-laws as your ‘political family’, but that’s how it is in Spain. Example: Estas navidades me toca cena con mi familia política. This Christmas I’m having dinner with my in-laws.
Yerno – Son-in-law. Example – Mi yerno es un juerguista (My son-in-law is a party animal).
Nuera – Daughter-in-law. Unlike the other names above where you exchange an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ for masculine or feminine, for son or daughter-in-law, there are separate words completely.
Example: ‘Mi nuera es de Argentina’ (my daughter-in-law is from Argentina).
Padastro/a – Stepfather. Example – ‘Mi padrastro tiene 55 años’ (my stepfather is 55 years old).
Madastro/a – Stepmother. Example: ‘Mi madrastra no es como las madrastras de los cuentos de hadas’ (my stepmother is not like the stepmothers in fairytales).
Hijastro/a – Stepson or stepdaughter Example: ‘Su hijastro se va a Jamaica’ (Her stepson is going to Jamaica).
Hermanastro/a – Stepbrother or stepsister Example: ‘Su hermanastra es la hija de su madrastra’ (His stepsister is the daughter of his stepmother).
Madrina – Godmother. Example: ‘Ella era la madrina del bebé’ (She was the baby’s godmother).
Padrino – Godfather Example – ‘Mi padrino solía comprarme dulces’ (My godfather used to buy me sweets).
Ahijado/a – Godson or Goddaughter. Example: ‘Aquí hay una foto de mi ahijado’ (Here is a photo of my godson).
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