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benim, senin, onun
Everyone is a part of the family
One thing I love about Turkey is the culture of including everyone into part of the family. Random strangers on the street call me “abi” (older brother) and I address others with similar familial terms. What can make this difficult, however, is distinguishing between the times when people are talking about real family and when they are just talking about a friend. Not to mention all the different names for complicated family relations that we don’t have in English can be hard to keep straight. This article is here to help you with this. Below is a list of familial terms, what the standard meaning of the word is and when it can be applied to other people as well.
The ‑çığım ending for showing affection
Often, the ending ‑çığım/çiğim/çuğum/çüğüm or ‑cığım/ciğim/cuğum/cüğüm is added to a family term or a person’s name. This ending combines the diminutive ‑çık ending with the first person possession ending ‑ım. When someone uses a ‑çığım form, it makes the statement personal. People use it to show affection to the person they are talking to. It can be added to any family term, but the least common one of these is the kardeşçiğim term, perhaps because it doesn’t roll off the tongue. Also, ‑çığım be used when addressing strangers, especially when shop owners and bazaar workers are being polite to customers.
When addressing friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, the most common titles are terms for immediate family members: “abi” (older brother), “abla” (older sister) and “kardeş” (younger sibling). The terms for mother and father (“anne,” “baba”) are not less common, but they can also be used for addressing older people.
The term “üvey” can be added before an immediate family relation in order to indicate step relations. For example, the term for stepdad is “üvey baba.” This can also denote adoption without any blood relation.
In Turkish, people usually refer to their spouse using the generic term, “eş” (spouse) instead of the specific words, “koca” (husband) and “karı” (wife). Like many of the other familial terms, “eş” is almost always used with a possessive ending: “eşim” (my spouse).
|Term||English||Less common terms|
|Eş||Spouse||Karı (wife), koca (husband), zevce (old term for wife)|
|Nişanlı||Fiancé (or fiancée)||Yavuklu (uncommon term)|
|Anne||Mother||Ana, anneciğim, valide|
|Baba||Father||Babacığım, buba (Aegean), peder, ata|
|Abi||Older brother (or any man)||Abiciğim, ağabey, ağa|
|Abla||Older sister (or any woman)||Ablacığım|
|Kardeş||Younger sibling (or any person the same age or younger)||Kardeşçiğim, gardaş|
|Erkek kardeş||Younger brother||Birader, bilader|
|Kızkardeş||Younger sister||Bacı (sister or servant), kız birader|
|Kız||Daughter (literally, “girl”)||Gız|
|Oğul||Son||Oğlan (used when discussing a child’s gender)|
In addition to the immediate family terms above, there are some extended family terms that get used commonly for other people. The most common of these are “amca” (father’s brother), “dayı” (mother’s brother) and “teyze” (mother’s sister). “Nine” (grandmother) and “dede” (grandfather) are also sometimes used, but most people prefer to use the aunt or uncle terms in order to avoid calling someone old. In fact, many people avoid even these terms and call old men and women simply “abi” (older brother) or “abla” (older sister) even if they are the age of the speaker’s grandparents.
|Term||English||Less common terms|
|Nine||Grandmother (or elderly woman)||Nene, büyükanne, büyükana|
|Dede||Grandfather (or elderly man or ancestor)||Büyükbaba, büyük peder|
|Büyük dede||Great grandfather||Ata|
|Büyük nine||Great grandmother|
|Dayı||Mother’s brother (or any older man)||Dayıcığım|
|Teyze||Mother’s sister (or any woman more than a generation older than the speaker)||Teyzeciğim|
|Amca||Father’s brother (or any older man)||Amcacığım, emmi|
|Hala||Father’s sister||Halacığım, bibi|
|Yeğen||Niece or nephew|
|Kuzen||Cousin (in older usage, this only meant male cousins)||Böle, amca oğlu, teyze oğlu, hala oğlu, dayı oğlu|
|Kuzin||Female cousin (older term)||Böle, amca kızı, teyze kızı, hala kızı, dayı kızı|
|Torunun oğlu||Great grandson|
|Torunun kızı||Great granddaughter|
Family by marriage
Here are the different terms for sister-in-law in Turkish. Note that the term “yenge” (brother’s or uncle’s wife or fiancée) can also be used to refer to the wife or fiancée of any man. However, be careful how you use this term because it can easily be accidentally used to suggest that a relationship exists where one does not, which can be offensive.
|Yenge||Brother’s or uncle’s wife or fiancée (either side) or more generally the wife of a blood relative. This can also be used to refer to a friend’s wife or fiancée.|
|Elti||Husband’s brother’s wife|
|Kaynının eşi||Wife’s brother’s wife||Kayınbiraderinin eşi, yenge|
Here are the different terms for brother-in-law in Turkish. Note that unlike with sisters-in-law, the brother of a person’s husband is not distinguished with a different term from the brother of a person’s wife.
|Kayınbirader||Spouse’s brother||Kayınbilader, kayınço, kayın|
|Enişte||Sister’s or aunt’s husband (either side), or more generally the husband of a blood relative|
|Bacanak||Wife’s sister’s husband||Baco|
|Görümcenin eşi||Husband’s sister’s husband||Enişte|
|Kayınpeder||Spouse’s father||Kayınbaba, kayınata|
|Kayınvalide||Spouse’s mother||Kayınana, kaynana|
|Dünür||Child’s spouse’s parents, or more generally referring to a relative’s in-laws|
|Gelin||Daughter in law (or bride)|
|Damat||Son in law (or groom)||Güvey, iç güvey (term for man who lives in wife’s parent’s house)|
If all of these familial terms haven’t scattered your brains enough yet, see if you can pass the test by solving these 5 logic questions involving Turkish relational terms: