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Familien Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Vocabulary

One of the basic things in life is … familien [famEELee-uhn] (the family). Everybody has a mor (mother) and a far (father) – although lots of Norwegians would rather say they’ve got a mamma (mom) and a pappa (dad). There are many different ways of talking about ”my” mother or father: moren min, mora mi, mor mi or min mor; faren min, far min or min far. (If you’re not sure, use: moren min, faren min.)

An increasing number of Norwegians are enebarn (single children), although it’s still more common to have a søster (sister) or a bror (brother – brødre in the plural). (The average number of childbirths for a Norwegian woman is just below 2.) If your sister’s younger than you she’s your lillesøster (little sister), and if she’s older she’s your storesøster (big sister) – the same goes for your brothers: lillebror and storebror. Siblings are called søsken. If you were born on approximately the same time as your sibling, you’re both tvilling/er (twin/s) – or trilling/er if there are three of you…

The foreldre (parents) of your parents are your besteforeldre (grandparents). A grandmother is typically called bestemor (grandmother, literally ”best mother”), while a grandfather is bestefar. Note that Norwegian, unlike English, has special words for ”mother’s parents”mormor (”mother-mother”) and morfarand for ”father’s parents”: farmor and farfar. Your grandparents’ parents are called oldefar and oldemor, and to follow the generations further back you add the prefix ”tipp”: tippoldefar, tipptipptippoldemor… In relation to your grandparents you’re a barnebarn (grandchild), and for your eventual oldeforeldre you’re an oldebarn (great-grandchild).

In case your besteforeldre had other children than your parents, those are called your tante (aunt) or onkel (uncle). You’re either their nevø (nephew) or niese (niece), depending on your sex. The children of your tanter and onkler are your søskenbarn (cousins, literally ”sibling-children”). A søskenbarn (cousin, either male or female) may be a fetter (male cousin) or kusine [kooSEEneh] (female cousin).

If you’re married yourself, you also have svigerforeldre (parents-in-law): svigermor and svigerfar. The brother of your kone (wife) or mann (husband) is your svoger (brother-in-law), while the sister of your partner is your svigerinne (sister-in-law).

Perhaps you’ve got barn (children, or just ’child’) yourself, either a datter (daughter, the plural is døtre) or a sønn (son), or a whole barneflokk (row of children).

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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.