Niece and nephew

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In the language of kinship, a nephew is a son of a person's sibling, and a niece is a daughter of a person's sibling. Conversely, that person is the aunt or uncle of their niece or nephew. The relationship of aunt/uncle to niece/nephew is an example of second-degree relatives, meaning that their coefficient of relationship is 25%.

The terms are also used colloquially for sons and daughters of siblings-in-law, even though there is no blood relationship.


The word nephew is derived from the French word neveu which is derived from the Latin nepotem.[1] The term nepotism, meaning familial loyalty, is derived from this Latin term.[2] Niece entered Middle English from the Old French word nece, which also derives from Latin nepotem.[3] The word nibling is a neologism suggested by Samuel Martin in 1951 as a cover term for "nephew or niece"; it is uncommon outside of specialist literature.[4] Sibkid, another cover term for "niece or nephew,” is an abbreviation of “sibling’s kid.”[5][6]


Historically, a nephew was the logical recipient of his uncle's inheritance if the latter did not have a son or daughter, although in some northern Bangladeshi societies, a nephew takes precedence over a daughter.[7] This also happened in segments of medieval English law, where nephews were at times favored over daughters.[8] 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.[9]

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,[10] 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,[11] and some Garifuna people that would transmit languages to their nieces.[12] In some proselytizing communities the term niece was informally extended to include non-related younger female community members as a form of endearment.[13] 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.[14]

In some cultures and family traditions, it is common to refer to one's first cousin once-removed (the child of one's cousin), as a niece or nephew. In archaic terminology, a maternal nephew is called a sister-son, emphasizing the importance as a person's nearest male relative should he have no brothers or sons of his own. Sister-son is used to describe some knights who are nephews to King Arthur and is imitated by J. R. R. Tolkien, especially in lists of Kings of Rohan or dwarves where the sister-son is also heir. Sister-daughter is a less common parallel term for niece.

Grandniece and grandnephew[edit]

The terms grandniece (great-niece) and grandnephew (great-nephew) correspond to those of granduncle (great-uncle) and grandaunt (great-aunt), expressing a third-degree relationship.

For (poorly standardized) terminology such as "second granduncle", see first cousins twice removed.


  1. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Douglas Harper. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  2. ^ Meakins, Felicity (2016). Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation. p. 91.
  3. ^ "niece, n.". OED Online. Oxford University Press. June 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  4. ^ Conklin, Harold C. (1964). "Ethnogenealogical method". In Ward Hunt Goodenough. Explorations in Cultural Anthropology: Essays in Honor of George Peter Murdock. McGraw-Hill. p. 35.
  5. ^ Definition of sibkid, Urban Dictionary. Retrieved December 1, 2018
  6. ^ List of ungendered terms, Ungendered. Retrieved December 1, 2018
  7. ^ Chakraborty, Eshani. "Marginality, Modes of insecurity and Indigenous Women of Northern Bangladesh" (PDF). Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  8. ^ Stahl, Anne (2007). Victims who Do Not Cooperate with Law Enforcement in Domestic Violence Incidents. p. 19.
  9. ^ "The Politics of Culture in Humanitarian Aid to Women Refugees Who Have Experienced Sexual Violence". transcultural psychiatry. McGill University. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Comparative Studies in Society and History — The Religion and Culture of Indian Immigrants in Mauritius and the Effect of Social Change — Cambridge Journals Online". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  11. ^ "Knowledge Management on Local Wisdom of Tai-so Community Weaving Culture in Phone Sawan District, Nakhon Phanom Province" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-11.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Language transmission in a Garifuna community: Challenging current notions about language death". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  13. ^ "Divine Domesticities : Christian Paradoxes in Asia and the Pacific". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
  14. ^ Gustaffson, Berit (1999). Traditions and Modernities in Gender Roles: Transformations in Kinship and Marriage Among the M'Buke from Manus Province. p. 7.

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