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Niece and nephew

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In the lineal kinship system used in the English-speaking world, a niece or nephew is a child of an individual's sibling or sibling-in-law. A niece is female and a nephew is male, and they would call their parents' siblings aunt or uncle. The gender-neutral term nibling has been used in place of the common terms, especially in specialist literature.[1]

As aunt/uncle and niece/nephew are separated by one generation, they are an example of a second-degree relationship. Unless related by marriage, they are 25% or more related by blood if the aunt/uncle is a full sibling of one of the parents, or 12.5% if they are a half-sibling.


The word nephew is derived from the French word neveu which is derived from the Latin nepos.[2] The term nepotism, meaning familial loyalty, is derived from this Latin term.[3] Niece entered Middle English from the Old French word nece, which also derives from Latin nepotem.[4] The word nibling, derived from sibling, is a neologism suggested by Samuel Martin in 1951 as a cover term for "nephew or niece"; it is not common outside of specialist literature.[1] Sometimes in discussions involving analytic material or in abstract literature, terms such as male nibling and female nibling are preferred to describe nephews and nieces respectively.[5] Terms such as nibling are also sometimes viewed as a gender-neutral alternative to terms which may be viewed as perpetuating the overgenderization of the English language;[6] it can also be used likewise to refer to non-binary relatives.[7]

These French-derived terms displaced the Middle English nyfte, nift, nifte, from Old English nift, from Proto-Germanic *niftiz ('niece'); and the Middle English neve, neave, from Old English nefa, from Proto-Germanic *nefô ('nephew').[8][9][10][11]


Traditionally, a nephew was the logical recipient of his uncle's inheritance if the latter did not have a successor. A nephew might have more rights of inheritance than the uncle's daughter.[12][13]

In social environments that lacked a stable home or environments such as refugee situations, uncles and fathers would equally be assigned responsibility for their sons and nephews.[14]

Among parents, some cultures have assigned equal status in their social status to daughters and nieces. This is, for instance, the case in Indian communities in Mauritius,[15] and the Thai Nakhon Phanom Province, where the transfer of cultural knowledge such as weaving was distributed equally among daughters, nieces and nieces-in-law by the Tai So community,[16] and some Garifuna people that would transmit languages to their nieces.[17] In some proselytizing communities the term niece was informally extended to include non-related younger female community members as a form of endearment.[18] Among some tribes in Manus Province of Papua New Guinea, women's roles as sisters, daughters and nieces may have taken precedence over their marital status in social importance.[19]

Additional terms[edit]

  • A grandnephew or grandniece is the grandson or granddaughter of one's sibling.[20] Also called great-nephew / great-niece.[21]
  • A half-niece or half-nephew is the child of one's half-sibling, related by 12.5%.[22][23]

In some cultures and family traditions, it is common to refer to cousins with one or more removals to a newer generation using some form of the word niece or nephew. For more information see cousin.


  1. ^ a b Conklin, Harold C. (1964). "Ethnogenealogical method". In Ward Hunt Goodenough (ed.). Explorations in Cultural Anthropology: Essays in Honor of George Peter Murdock. McGraw-Hill. p. 35.
  2. ^ "nephew (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  3. ^ Meakins, Felicity (2016). Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation. p. 91.
  4. ^ "niece, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  5. ^ Keen, Ian (1985). "Definitions of kin". Journal of Anthropological Research. 41 (1): 62–90.
  6. ^ Hill, Jane H.; Kenneth C. Hill (1997). "Culture Influencing Language: Plurals of Hopi Kin Terms in Comparative Uto‐Aztecan Perspective". Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 7 (2): 166–180.}
  7. ^ Aviles, Gwen (24 August 2020). "Jennifer Lopez shares video about transgender 'nibling,' Brendon". NBC News. Retrieved 25 May 2024.
  8. ^ Buck, Carl Darling (3 July 2008). A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226228860 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Ringe, Donald (31 August 2006). From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic: A Linguistic History of English. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191536335 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Jones, William Jervis (19 March 1990). German kinship terms, 750–1500: documentation and analysis. W. de Gruyter. ISBN 9780899255736 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Adams, Douglas Q. (19 March 1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781884964985 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Stahl, Anne (2007). Victims who Do Not Cooperate with Law Enforcement in Domestic Violence Incidents. p. 19.
  13. ^ Chakraborty, Eshani. "Marginality, Modes of insecurity and Indigenous Women of Northern Bangladesh" (PDF). calternatives.org. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  14. ^ Atlani, Laàtitia; Rousseau, C…Cile (2000). "The Politics of Culture in Humanitarian Aid to Women Refugees Who Have Experienced Sexual Violence". Transcultural Psychiatry. 37 (3). McGill University: 435–449. doi:10.1177/136346150003700309. S2CID 146534532.
  15. ^ Hazareesingh, K. (January 1966). "Comparative Studies in Society and History — The Religion and Culture of Indian Immigrants in Mauritius and the Effect of Social Change — Cambridge Journals Online". Comparative Studies in Society and History. 8 (2): 241–257. doi:10.1017/S0010417500004023. S2CID 144617688. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  16. ^ "Knowledge Management on Local Wisdom of Tai-so Community Weaving Culture in Phone Sawan District, Nakhon Phanom Province" (PDF). Npu.ac.th. Retrieved 11 April 2016.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Language transmission in a Garifuna community: Challenging current notions about language death". Dialnet.unirioja.es. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  18. ^ "Divine Domesticities : Christian Paradoxes in Asia and the Pacific". Oapen.org. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  19. ^ Gustaffson, Berit (1999). Traditions and Modernities in Gender Roles: Transformations in Kinship and Marriage Among the M'Buke from Manus Province. p. 7.
  20. ^ "Definition of Grandnephew by Merriam-Webster". merriam-webster.com. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Definition of Great-nephew by Merriam-Webster". merriam-webster.com. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  22. ^ "Definition Of Half Niece by Merriam-Webster". merriam-webster.com. Merriam-webster. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  23. ^ "Definition Of Half Nephew by Merriam-Webster". merriam-webster.com. Merriam-webster. Retrieved 30 March 2022.

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