Danish Language Blog

Familien Posted by on Oct 20, 2012 in Vocabulary

What would we be without a familie (family)? Even though an increasing number of Danes choose to live alene (alone), most people live together with at least one of their familiemedlem/mer (family member/s). Let’s take a look at the relevant words:

mor mother (remember the sound of the Danish R? Small children cry ”mo-a!”)
far father
forældre [foᵒʳ-EL-dreh] parents
voksen, voksne adult, adults
barn, børn child, children
søn, sønner son, sons
datter, døtre daughter, daughters
bror, brødre brother, brothers
søster, søstre sister, sisters
søskende siblings

To say that someone’s your little or big brother or sister, you prefix either lille– or store-: lillebror, storesøster. If he or she has got the same alder (age) as you, you must be tvilling/er (twin/s).

Then we’ve got the older generations. Notice that Danish is more nuanced than English when it comes to describing grandparents:

mormor og morfar grandmother and grandfather (mother’s parents)
farmor og farfar grandmother and grandfather (father’s parents)
bedsteforældre = bedstemor og bedstefar grandparents (generally, without specifying whether they’re you’re on your mother’s or father’s side)
oldeforældre = oldemor og oldefar great-grandparents
tipoldefar, tiptipoldemor great-great-grandfather, great-great-great-grandmother

Then we’ve got the more remote slægtning/e (relative/s):

fætter male cousin
kusine female cousin
tante aunt
onkel uncle
faster aunt (father’s sister)
farbror uncle (father’s brother)
moster aunt (mother’s sister)
morbror uncle (mother’s brother)
nevø nephew
niece [nee-EH-seh] niece

And the in-laws:

svigermor [SVEEYor-] mother-in-law
svigerfar father-in-law
svoger [SVOUWor] brother-in-law
svigerinde [SVEEYoren] sister-in-law

As the traditional kernefamilie (nuclear family) is changing in Denmark too, new words are needed. A few of them are:

delebarn a child of separated parents that spends some days at her mother’s place, the other days at her father’s place (the word literally means ’share-kid’)
stedfar stepfather
papfar ”cardboard father”, a more slang-ish way of saying stepfather!
adoptivmor [adoptEEVmor] a mother who’s adopted an adoptivbarn

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.