Do you want to learn the French family words? In this post we go through all the vocabulary for talking about family in French. We’ll start with words for the immediate family and extended family members, and then move on to couple situations and to more complex familial relationships.
We’ve broken this post down into the main groups of French family words, each with their own headings, so you can easily scroll through and find the vocabulary you’re looking for. Now let’s get started!
Kids and parents in French
Let’s begin with the words for the closest family members in French. We’ll start with the immediate family, and then give vocab lists for talking about kids.
Immediate family members in French
In French, the immediate family is considered la famille proche.
|la famille||the family|
|un ménage||a household (Québec)|
|les parents||the parents|
|un père||a father|
|une mère||a mother|
|les enfants||the children, the kids|
|un fils||a son|
|une fille||a daughter|
|un frère||a brother|
|une soeur||a sister|
Note that there’s no single word for siblings in French. Instead, people just refer to brothers and sisters:
- As-tu des frères et sœurs ? – Do you have siblings?
Another important difference is that in French, while the word parent usually refers to mother and father, it also encompasses any other extended family members by blood or by marriage. In everyday French, however, this concept is usually expressed with the term la parenté, meaning relatives or family relations. Des liens de parenté are family ties.
- As-tu de la parenté aux États-Unis ? – Do you have relatives in the United States?
- Oui, j’ai un parent à Boston. Ma tante! – Yes, I have a relative in Boston. My aunt!
- Je crois que, du côté de mon père, j’ai des liens de parenté avec Benjamin Franklin. – I think that on my dad’s side, I’m related to Benjamin Franklin.
We also included the Canadian French word ménage on this vocab list, which translates as household, used to describe the people living under one roof. While this can often refer to a family unit, a household can also be comprised of a single person or of a bunch of unrelated housemates. This word doesn’t really exist in France.
Twins and Triplets
In French, there are masculine, feminine, and plural forms of each word for twins and triplets.
|les jumeaux||twin boys|
|les jumelles||twin girls|
|un jumeau||a twin boy|
|une jumelle||a twin girl|
|les triplées, les triplettes||triplets [all girls]|
You’ll also likely hear the word jumelles used in another context than for twin girls: it also means binoculars.
The eldest and youngest children in a family
In French, we have specific words to designate the position of a child in a family. While the English translations of first, middle, or last can be used in French, you’ll sound more like native speaker if you use these terms. These words can be used both as nouns and adjectives.
|l’aîné, l’aînée||the oldest child|
|le cadet, la cadette||a younger or a middle child|
|le benjamin, la benjamine||the youngest child|
- Mon frère aîné est allé à l’Université à Paris l’année dernière. – My eldest brother went to University in Paris last year.
- Ma sœur cadette n’est pas du tout gentille. – My younger sister isn’t nice at all.
- En tant que benjamin de la famille, j’ai toujours hérité les vêtements de mes frères aînés. – As the youngest in the family, I always inherited my older brothers’ clothes.
Extended family in French
Now we’re ready to learn the French family words for the extended family. We’ll start with the close family that we’re related to through our parents, and then learn the terms for grandparent relationships.
Note that in France, there’s no broad term for the extended family like in English. It rather goes the other way, with la famille referring to the extended family, while for the close family we saw above we use the direct translation: la famille proche. In Québec, however, with its influence from the English language, it’s common to use the direct translation of the extended family: la famille élargie.
Uncles, aunts, and cousins in French
|la famille élargie||the extended family (Québec)|
|un arbre généalogique||a family tree|
|un oncle||an uncle|
|une tante||an aunt|
|un cousin||a male cousin|
|une cousine||a female cousin|
|un neveu||a nephew|
|une nièce||a niece|
Just like in English, there’s no differentiation in these terms to differentiate whether we’re related through our father or our mother. The only difference to note is that there are separate words for male and female cousins.
- Mon cousin est gentil et sympa. – My [male] cousin is nice and fun.
- Ma cousine est grande et sportive. – My [female] cousin is tall and athletic.
Grandparents and grandchildren in French
|une génération||a generation|
|les grand-parents||the grandparents|
|un grand-père||a grandfather|
|une grand-mère||a grandmother|
|les petits-enfants||the grandchildren|
|un petit-fils||a grandson|
|une petite-fille||a granddaughter|
Great-grandparents and great-grandchildren in French
|les arrière-grand-parents||the great-grandparents|
|un arrière-grand-père||a great-grandfather|
|une arrière-grand-mère||a great-grandmother|
|les arrière-petits-enfants||the great-grandchildren|
|un arrière-petit-fils||a great-grandson|
|une arrière-petite-fille||a great-granddaughter|
Just like in English with great, in French we can just keep adding arrière to count the generations in the relationship.
- Mon arrière-arrière-arrière-arrière-grand-père était envoyé à la guillotine durant la révolution. – My great-great-great-great-grandfather was sent to the guillotine during the revolution.
Couples in French
There’s definitely more than just husband and wife when we think couples. Let’s learn the main vocab for talking about common couple situations in French.
|un couple||a couple|
|une famille monoparentale||a single-parent family|
|un couple marié||a married couple|
|un couple hétéro||a hetero couple|
|un couple gai||a gay couple|
|un couple lesbien, un couple de lesbiennes||a lesbian couple|
|conjoints de fait||common-law partners (Québec)|
|un couple pacsé||a common-law couple (France)|
|un mari||a husband|
|une femme||a wife|
|un époux||a male spouse|
|une épouse||a female spouse|
|un conjoint, une conjointe||a committed partner|
|un copain||a boyfriend|
|une copine||a girlfriend|
|un amant||a [male] lover|
|une amante||a [female] lover|
|une maîtresse||a [female] lover on the side|
|une aventure||an affair|
|un divorcé||a divorced man|
|une divorcée||a divorced woman|
|un veuf||a widower|
|une veuve||a widow|
Family by marriage
We gain new family ties through marriage, which you refer to as in-laws in English. On the other hand, when our parents remarry you refer to the new relationships in English as your step family. In French, however, we use the same vocabulary to describe both of these situations.
|la famille par alliance||family by marriage|
|un famille recomposée||a blended family|
|les beaux-parents||the in-laws|
|la belle-famille||the in-laws|
|un beau-père||a father-in-law, step-father|
|une belle-mère||a mother-in-law, step-mother|
|un beau-fils||a son-in-law, step-son|
|une belle-fille||a daughter-in-law, step-daughter|
|le gendre||the son-in-law|
|la bru||the daughter-in-law|
|un beau-frère||a brother-in-law, step-brother|
|une belle-soeur||a sister-in-law, step-sister|
|un demi-frère||a half-brother|
|une demi-soeur||a half-sister|
- Mon mari ne s’entend pas avec sa mère, ma belle-mère. – My husband doesn’t get along with his mom, my mother-in-law.
- Ma mère se marie à mon nouveau beau-père le dix octobre. – My mom is getting married to my new step-father on the 10th of October.
- Ma nouvelle belle-sœur va vivre dans notre maison après le mariage. – My new step-sister is going to live in our house after the marriage.
- Ma mère et mon beau-père ont un nouveau fils. Il est mon demi-frère. – My mom and my step-father have a new son. He is my half-brother.
Biological and adoptive families
Like in English, we have a few French adjectives to describe families through adoption or foster care.
|un père biologique||a biological father|
|une mère biologique||a biological mother|
|un père adoptif||an adoptive father|
|une mère adoptive||an adoptive mother|
|un fils adoptif||an adopted son|
|une fille adoptive||an adopted daughter|
|un père nourricier||a foster father|
|une mère nourricière||a foster mother|
|les parents d’accueil||foster parents|
|une famille d’accueil||a foster family|
|un enfant placé dans une famille||a foster child|
Une famille d’accueil or les parents d’accueil can also refer to homestay families for foreign or cultural exchange students. Une famille d’accueil is also used to refer to households that welcome refugees into their home.
Godparents and Godchildren
As a historically Catholic society, it’s still quite common for French families to designate godparents for their children.
|un parrain||a godfather|
|une marraine||a godmother|
|un filleul||a godson|
|une filleule||a goddaughter|
|le baptême||the baptism|
Stemming from this traditional term, un parrain is also used in French to refer to a professional mentor. The French verb parrainer means to mentor.
French nicknames for family members
Just as in English where you’re likely to refer to family members using informal nicknames like mom and dad rather than saying mother and father, the same phenomenon of informal French family words exists in French.
It seems there are even more options used for grandparents, especially grandmothers, who depending on the family are referred to as grandma, granma, grammy, gammie, gaga, mimi, or even memaw in English. It would be impossible to include all the possibilities for grandma in French, but our list at least includes some of the most common informal words used for French family members.
|grandma||mamie, mémé, mémère|
|children||gosses, gamins, mômes|
There you have it, we’ve now covered all the French family words!
We started off with the basics, talking about our immediate family along with the different ways to refer to our siblings in French. Then we moved on to the extended family, including how to talk about grandparents and grandchildren through the generations.
We had a whole section on how to refer to couple situations in French, extending well beyond the traditional marriage. Then came the sections on how to refer to other family compositions, whether through marriage, remarriage, adoption, or baptism.
Finally, we finished up by listing some of the common informal nicknames used by native speakers to address their various family members in French. With that, you now have a full-on intro to all the different family words in French for anyone you want to refer to!
We know this was a lot of vocab at once for talking about la famille, so we recommend bookmarking this page or even sharing it if you or anyone you know may want to refer back to it. We hope you appreciate this post on how to talk about family in French!