English Kin Terms

English kin terms exemplify the principles of Eskimo terminology:

  1. The system is bilateral (no distinctions between father's and mother's relatives).
  2. Distinctions mark differences in sex, generation, and collateral kinship distance.
  3. Each nuclear family relationship receives a distinct term; more distant relatives are grouped into general categories
English Kin Terms

Note that nuclear family terms - mother, father, brother, sister, son, and daughter apply to only one kin type - but that terms applied to extended kin - uncle, aunt and cousin - are use to form more comprehensive categories in a process called collateral merging.

English Kin Terms Designated by Kin Type
(Male terms only)
Kinterm Kintype
Father F
Uncle FB
Brother B
Cousin FBS
Son S
Nephew BS

The significance of kinship distance within English terminology can be represented spatially as a set of concentric circles, radiating out from Ego.

© Brian Schwimmer
University of Manitoba
Created: Sept. 1996
Last Updated: August 1998