Family in French
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One of the interesting things about la famille and French family vocabulary is that the word parent means not just "parent" as in mother or father, but also "relative." It can be both a noun and an adjective.

Par exemple…

J’ai un parent à Lille.   I have a relative in Lille.
Nous sommes parents par mon père.   We’re related on my father’s side.

La famille

Close relations, next of kin = les proches

brother un frère   sister une sœur
father un père   mother une mère
son un fils   daughter une fille
un mari
un époux
une femme
une épouse
uncle un oncle   aunt une tante
nephew un neveu   niece une nièce
cousin – male un cousin   cousin – female une cousine
grandfather un grand-père   grandmother une grand-mère
great grandfather arrière-grand-père   great grandmother arrière-grand-mère
grandson un petit-fils   granddaughter une petite-fille
great grandson arrière-petit-fils   great granddaughter arrière-petite-fille

Special family terms

Un aîné / une aînée can refer to an older brother/sister, the oldest brother/sister, or the first-born son/daughter.

Un cadet / une cadette can refer to a younger brother/sister or the second-born son/daughter in a family.

Le benjamin / la benjamine is the youngest child in a family.

 For twins, triplets, etc., see the "multiple births" section of Multiplicative numbers.

extended family   la famille étendue
blended family   la famille recomposée

Family by marriage ~ Famille par alliance

In French, there’s no distinction between step-family and family-in-law: they are both equivalent to beau- or belle- plus that family member.

beau-père   step-mother
beau-frère   step-sister
beau-fils   step-daughter
But there are some additional terms for in-laws:
in-laws les beaux-parents, la belle-famille

le gendre

  daughter-in-law la bru

 What’s the difference?

For the non-native English speakers out there:

Step-family (Famille recomposée) has to do with a spouse who has children from a previous partnership:

  • My father’s new wife is my step-mother (belle-mère) and I am her step-daughter (belle-fille)
  • My step-mother’s son is my step-brother (beau-frère) and I am his step-sister (belle-sœur)
  • A child born to my father and step-mother is my half-brother (demi-frère) or half-sister (demi-sœur)
  • My new husband’s daughter is my step-daughter (belle-fille) and I am her step-mother (belle-mère)

Family-in-law is your spouse’s family and the family of your sibling’s spouse:

  • My husband’s mother is my mother-in-law (belle-mère) and I am her daughter-in-law (belle-fille or bru)
  • My husband’s brother is my brother-in-law (beau-frère) and I am his sister-in-law (belle-sœur)
  • My sister’s husband is my brother-in-law (beau-frère) and I am his sister-in-law (belle-sœur)
  • My son’s wife is my daughter-in-law (belle-fille or bru) and I am her mother-in-law (belle-mère)

Other Family Matters

Adoptive Family ~ Famille adoptive

biological father père biologique   biological mother mère biologique
adoptive father père adoptif   adoptive mother mère adoptive
adopted son fils adoptif   adopted daughter fille adoptive

Foster Family ~ Famille nourricière / Famille d’accueil

foster father père nourricier / père d’accueil
foster mother mère nourricière / mère d’accueil
foster child enfant placé dans une famille

Godparents and Godchildren

godfather parrain   godmother marraine
godson filleul   goddaughter filleule (pronounced like filleul)

 Related features

PwLF grammar quiz

French lesson plans French lesson plans

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Family in French

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2 Responses

  1. David Shireby 13 December 2017 / 6:07

    in Greek there is word “cinco” for your opposite in law (of either gender) I don’t suppose French has such a word?

    • lkl 13 December 2017 / 10:38

      No, I’ve never heard of a word like that.

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