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. They are 25% related by blood, unless related by marriage.


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]

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”).[7][8][9][10]


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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.[11][12]

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.[13]

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,[14] 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,[15] and some Garifuna people that would transmit languages to their nieces.[16] In some proselytizing communities the term niece was informally extended to include non-related younger female community members as a form of endearment.[17] 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.[18]

Additional terms

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. ^ "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.". OED Online. Oxford University Press. June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  5. ^ Keen, Ian. "Definitions of kin." Journal of Anthropological Research 41.1 (1985): 62-90.
  6. ^ Hill, Jane H., and Kenneth C. Hill. "Culture Influencing Language: Plurals of Hopi Kin Terms in Comparative Uto‐Aztecan Perspective." Journal of linguistic Anthropology 7.2 (1997): 166-180.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Ringe, Donald (31 August 2006). From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic: A Linguistic History of English. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191536335 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Jones, William Jervis (19 March 1990). German kinship terms, 750-1500: documentation and analysis. W. de Gruyter. ISBN 9780899255736 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Adams, Douglas Q. (19 March 1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781884964985 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Stahl, Anne (2007). Victims who Do Not Cooperate with Law Enforcement in Domestic Violence Incidents. p. 19.
  12. ^ Chakraborty, Eshani. "Marginality, Modes of insecurity and Indigenous Women of Northern Bangladesh" (PDF). Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Knowledge Management on Local Wisdom of Tai-so Community Weaving Culture in Phone Sawan District, Nakhon Phanom Province" (PDF). Retrieved 11 April 2016.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Language transmission in a Garifuna community: Challenging current notions about language death". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  17. ^ "Divine Domesticities : Christian Paradoxes in Asia and the Pacific". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  18. ^ Gustaffson, Berit (1999). Traditions and Modernities in Gender Roles: Transformations in Kinship and Marriage Among the M'Buke from Manus Province. p. 7.
  19. ^ "Definition of Grandnephew by Merriam-Webster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  20. ^ "Definition of Great-nephew by Merriam-Webster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Definition Of Half Niece by Merriam-Webster". Merriam-webster. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  22. ^ "Definition Of Half Nephew by Merriam-Webster". Merriam-webster. Retrieved 30 March 2022.