What Should My Son Call My Cousin?

Updated on May 04, 2011
J.G. asks from Minneapolis, MN
36 answers

My husband and I are very close to my cousin and her husband. They have a daughter who is 4 months younger than my son. We got together over the holiday and I realized that my son doesn't have a "name" for my cousin.

In my husband's family (middle eastern) they call all elders (except parents) "Aunt" or "Uncle". Ironically in my cousin's husband's family (hispanic) it is the same. In my family, though, there is a huge emphasis on proper labeling. An aunt is an aunt, a great aunt is a great aunt and my mother even did copious amounts of research into great vs. grand. (No difference, by the way, in case you were wondering.)

I suppose that my son could call my cousin and her husband aunt and uncle, but I'm wondering how you all have dealt with this? I'm not so much worried about my family being upset or offended because they are always upset and offended by something (lol) and I really have very little to do with them anyways. The thing is that my cousin has sisters with whom she is very close and I have brothers and I don't want to diminish the importance of my brothers title or her sisters title by calling everyone by that.

I really dislike the notion of my son calling them "cousin" because there's no deference to the fact that my cousin is my son's elder. My mother would call her cousins "Cousin John", but I never called them anything because I hardly knew them at all and they never had children. Plus, I never called my cousin "cousin so and so", it was always first name.

So i am wondering how you all have solved these complicated issues? :-)

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers


answers from New York on

You can refer to them as my cousin Suzy or my Mom's cousin Jane but when talking to them directly we called cousins of a similar age by their first name but an elder cousin is called "Cousin Jane" or "Cousin Joe"
or you could just choose a title specially for her like "Tia" or "Prima" (aunt or cousin in Spanish)

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Why not just use their first names? We have a cousin and her fiancée that are really close, and they are just "Sally" and "Bob". My kids still respect them the same as the rest of their elders. Sometimes, however, Aunt and Uncle come out of my mouth when referring to them.

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My kids call my closest cousins to me Aunt J__ and Aunt H__. Other that that they use their fist names.

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Dallas on

My husband's best friend we call Uncle Wes, but our cousins get called by their first name.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have my DD call my cousins "Cousin First Name" and her direct cousins/kids her age just first name. It helps her with her venn diagram of a family. With our friends, they call them Mr. and Ms. (or Miss) First Name unless the preference is for Last Name (by the person).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I just have my daughter call my cousins Aunt and Uncle - she's only 3 and when she is older I figure I'll be able to explain the difference but for right now I want adults to be either Aunt and Uncle, or Mr. and Mrs., and not just first names only. We have some really good friends that have Aunt and Uncle status too. Think of it as a sign of respect to give them a title like that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

we're Italian and we call cousins by their first name.. (although the cousins are older) However, when it comes to aunts/unlces we use Zia and Zio... and for his grandma.. she is ALWAYS Nonna.. and granpa, is ALWAYS Nonno..
Now I will say, my FIL did refer to his cousin as cousin... or cugino.. and meant it in a VERY sincere and sweet way.. I think it might also depend on the generation.. I think it's rather cute when people use the word cousin. To me, it shows family unity ( I say that with no judgement on families) it's just that since my own biological is so messed up, whenever I hear another family say endearing things like cousin or nonna.. I think it's great..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Youngstown on

my kids call my cousins by their first names. I think that is fine with everyone because we are all cousins. I also hate when a friend of mine has her kids call me Miss M.... I don't make my kids call my friends Mr. or Miss so and so. I find it crazy. I realize it is about respect and all but as long as a kid is not treating me badly they can just call me Melanie. Although my husband has 2 bff's and my boys call them Uncle Sean and Uncle Jimmy. Not sure why the boys kinda started it and it has stuck. The "uncles" love it though. You do what you want..see what your cousin prefers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My Aunt Linda is also my godmother, and is "technically" my cousin. She's in the same age range as my father and his sister (my "technical" aunt"), (she's actually their first cousin) and because of the respect aspects, I would NEVER call her by her first name. That's just how we do it in our family. I think it's totally appropriate for children who have adult cousins to call them "aunt" and "uncle". For those of you who mentioned having aunts and uncles only a couple years older than you, that's entirely different. Of course it would feel weird calling them "aunt" and "uncle". And really, I guess it depends on what everyone is comfortable with in their own families. On my mother's side of the family, I have aunts and uncles that are about 8 years older than I am, and while I did call them "aunt" and "uncle" when I was a little girl (and they were like teenagers, close to 20), these days I call them by their first name or their pet names. We all relate more as adults now, so it feels weird to call them "aunt" or "uncle"- especially since my BF and my uncle are the same age! Lol

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Visalia on

call them according to their custom, if primos get offended, tell them, different strokes for different folks.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

My Aunt has a godchild that I grew up with (we are the same age). I always referred to her as my Cousin, even tho' we are not related. My son calls her Nanny, and we call her parents Granny and Poppy. We refer to her children as my son's cousins. Our families have been intertwined for decades with no actual blood relations.

Instead of the official honorific of Aunt and Uncle, what about Nanny any Poppy - any other variation of the Aunt/Uncle honorific. It would give your cousin and her husband special names, and, clarify the relationship.

God Bless

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

My kids call my cousins "aunt" and "uncle", that is the role they play is their life, so why not?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I call my mother's best friend "Aunt Martha". I have been calling her that for 47 years. She told me a couple of years ago I could call her Martha and I said "nope I don't think so"! Same with my moms cousins. They were Aunt Joy, Uncle Kermit ... you get the idea. Aunt and Uncle are fine.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Is your cousin someone you want to be "aunt"-like to your child? If this is someone you want to be like an aunt/uncle to your kiddo then they are aunts if not then Mrs/Mr first or last name or you can just go first name ... btw what do their kids call you?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Wow- you are putting way way too much thought into this one! Copious research into great vs. grand?

Truthfully, I would ask your cousin what he would like to be called and go with that. In my family, we call my parents' cousins by their first names b/c we are very close. Having said that, my mother's male cousin is more like a brother to her and we call them "Aunt and Uncle" to reflect that relationship.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Because my cousin is so much older than my kids they call her auntie. They also call my best friend auntie because she and I ARE like sisters. Do what feels right :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I call my parents cousins my aunt and uncle. My husband does the same.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

In our family it depends on the relationship with the cousins. I have cousins for which I am extremely close almost more like siblings. They are called A. or uncle...other simply by their first name. However I have an A. and uncle who are only five years older than I...it feels weird calling them A. and Uncle...but my kids call them A. and uncle. And their kids are younger than mine and they just call me Mel, as I am their cousin but 30 years older.

Someone below suggested ask your cousin...I agree...have them give some insight and when the family gets offended say "hey we discussed this and determined that this is appropriate"...and leave at that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We all use first names in our family, but I have a cousin who just calls everyone "Cousin John" and "Cousin Sue" because it helps him keep them straight. For those who like accurate labels, it works. For those who want a "title" before someone's name if it's for a child addressing an adult, it works.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My daughter is 13 and my sister is 15, they call each other by name, some times if they are felling funny, they will say aunt or niece, and get looks.
Ohh how many times I was questioned if my sister was my abandoned daughter, and my mom would get so mad, specially because she got a HUGE belly with my sister, lol.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dayton on

My children have many adult cousins (2 are grandmas!) and I have taught them to call them Aunt and Uncle. It's just the respectful thing to do.

I am not ok w/ my small children addressing their 50 yo. cousin as Jane.
I would be ok w/ them saying Cousin Jane, but it seems a little silly for our family...like I said there are MANY cousins.

Whatever you choose you just need to establish that child/adult respect thing. :)

Hope that helps.



answers from Peoria on

I used to be told to do this as a child. IMO, I would tell your kids to just call them by their first names or w/Mr., Ms., Mrs. or Miss in front of the name. I was an adult before I found out that one of my 'aunts' was actually a cousin & while I knew that a neighbor was just a neigbor, not my 'aunt', I still was told to call her 'aunt'. It would've been better for me knowing the truth of the matter rather than what is deemed 'appropriate' old fashioned ettiquette for youngsters. If it's an adult friend or neighbor, they should, IMO, be called Mr., Ms., Miss or Mrs. Last Name or Mr., Ms, Miss, Mrs. First name like "son, this is Miss Jones/Mr. Thompkins" or "son, this is Miss Sarah/Mr. James". It, to me works better for women to be referred to by their first names & men by their last names but that's up to you. I would avoid calling someone something they're not. While I can understand if it's a close personal friend that's considered family or 'adopted' in a virtual fashion by the family & you wish to support this by referring to them as 'aunt' or 'uncle' then that can be understandable but the kids should know that while they call them that, they're not really related if it's just a friend. That's really old fashioned & while yes, it can be viewed as an old fashioned way to show respect, it's still not being honest & to me, it's just silly to say a cousin is an aunt or uncle. Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

I would ask your cousin and her husband for their preference in how they should be addressed.



answers from Phoenix on

i called my moms 2 cousins uncle so and so...then when i was older like 15 i started calling them by their first names. ask your cousin what your son should call her


answers from St. Louis on

What is his given name, go with that! :p Seriously I have second cousins who are my age, third cousins that are older than my kids. They are all cousins so you call them by their given name.



answers from Minneapolis on

The more Aunts and Uncles the better, If the adults are okay with it I would say you are good to go. Our elder cousins are auntie and uncles along with our elder friends. Good luck.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I cannot imagine my kids or anyone else's calling me "cousin" anything. I have a name and everyone calls each other by their names. I have 47 first cousins on my dads side and over 15 on my moms. The Aunts and Uncles were addressed but Aunt and Uncle. I never heard anyone calling anyone cousin then their name. If it is your culture to do so then go by what your culture dictates.



answers from Madison on

You could ask them what they would like to be called - they have a child, too, and the question may come up on what their daughter will call you as well. We aren't too formal in our family. I always refer to my sibs as Auntie or Uncle, but more times than not all the kids call the adults by their first names, except Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. Other than what you've mentioned, the only other label I've heard is "Miss Jane" or "Mr. Jim".


answers from Jacksonville on

We had an older cousin we called Uncle Mike. It meant the world to him! It never offended any of my other aunts and uncles. My daughter calls my best friend Aunt and my sister isn't offended. Just how it is. :)



answers from Milwaukee on

I would ask your cousin if she would mind being called auntie. I have a close friend who my little ones call auntie. It's a term of endearment. I would say if your cousin don't mind then do it. By the way I am not Hispanic or Middle Eastern.



answers from Des Moines on

Your cousin would be your child's second cousin, so calling them "cousin" would be appropriate. That's what my kids call my cousins!


answers from Pocatello on

well technically she (your cousin) is your son's second-cousin, and her daughter is your son's third cousin.

But do they (the cousins) want a "special name"? As a teen I called my cousin's uncle (my aunt's brother) "Uncle Jason" when I was around my cousins, and just "Jason" when I was not. The only reason I called him "uncle" was for the little kids, and he was about 21 when I was 14, and if we were all in the grocery store all together or something people wouldn't think it was "weird". (I spent my summer at age 14 with my aunt & uncle, and her brother often would watch us when she needed it) I also called my aunt's mother "nanna"- because she was like a 3rd "grandma" to me, but we didn't feel "grandma" was a fair name for her... ironically in the family I married, my daughter calls her grandma (my husband's mother) "nana" and her grandfather "papa", while my mom is "grandma" - her husband in "grandpa T" and My dad is "grandpa" and his GF is "Grandma V"

Then we have great grandmothers and great grandfathers... all "great uncles" we just call "uncle T" or whatnot. Unless we are building a family tree or something, then we will explain it more "correctly"- and show it on a chart.

Families are complicated, and only get more so. Just find a name and use it. "cousin" is just fine... or you could try using a word that means "cousin or aunt" from another language and use that instead... so no one feels like thier toes are stepped on.

Or use first names and skip it all. Probably as adults your kids will just use first names with distant relatives anyways.

Good Luck


answers from Dover on

We have a mixed bag of this in our family. I have two cousins that are like sisters to me and my kids call them "aunt" and their kids do the same with me. I have other cousins who we just call by their first names. The other option is "Ms" or "Mr".



answers from Seattle on

Technically (in English) they're 2nd cousins, and their children are 3rd cousins.

I'd go with "We're following DH's family customs on this one"... 2nd cousins = Auntie & Uncle ... one could even use the actual arabic/persian/pashto words OR the spanish

Arabic (mum's side) Kalah Simone & Kahl Bobby
Spanish : Tia Simone & Tio Bobby



answers from Washington DC on

In our family, we have only 2 first cousins across both sides. One is a young guy in his 20s and we use his first name. The other who I am closer to is a woman in her 40s and we use "Aunt."

Don't feel compelled to find an honorarium for this person. Just use their first name if aunt doesn't feel right. We don't make our kids be formal with our closest friends and family.



answers from Minneapolis on

We were raised to call adult family friends, Aunt and Uncle.Other adults were always Mr. and Mrs. It was very disrespectful to call adults by their first name. Here in America it seems that everyone is on first name terms. I guess it differs by culture.What would mean the most to your cousin? Is there a word that is used (middle eastern or hispanic) that shows respect in addressing an adult? What about translating the word "cousin" into one of the other languages and have your son call them " xxxxxxxx John". That may be interesting and fun.

Next question: What to Call Adults