I need to translate these words for a rather formal circumstance(Visa interview). And I am referring to serious relationships, not just something like "sugar daddy", and I think it worths to mention that I am not talking about "养母","养父","养子".

"Godmother","Godfather" and "Godson" are the first showing up in my mind, but in China these words seem irrelevant, and I am afraid if I use these terms I would be required to provide some documentation(I guess these documentation exists in a literal "Godfather/Godson" relationship in western/catholic countries), which I don't have.

So, is there any better translation for "干妈","干儿子", etc. that can help a Visa officer understand the relationship?

P.S. I need to write an "invitation" letter to her, and I am trying to fill this blank at the very beginning: Dear ______, so descriptive terms like “close family friend” won't work. Based on everyone's answer, I guess maybe her name would be the best to be filled in. But that seems a little absurd in a Chinese environment.

  • bkrs; 干爸:nonreligious/nonlegal foster father or godfather, for more details quote baike.baidu
    – user6065
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 1:48
  • If you want to make sure that readers of your letter understand she is as close to you as a family member, it is a good idea to use her given name, which may be preceded by “Aunt” or “Aunty”, just like Tang Ho wrote. Using just her surname or both the surname and the given name would make it look too formal.
    – 米好 '-'
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 22:17
  • don't use chinese translation software: gan1 won't be treated nicely here :) Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 23:45

4 Answers 4


The concept of 乾媽 and 乾爹 in Chinese culture is almost the same as " godmother and godfather in Western countries. To become official 乾媽 and 乾兒子, there has to be a rite or ceremony performed in front of witnesses. The relationship is formed in the name of gods, and is acceptable to everyone else.

However, in modern days, people tread the relationship of 乾媽 / 乾爹 and 乾兒子 much more casually, any close friend of the family can become an honorary mother to you just by oral agreement between the parties involved ( you and your 乾媽 or your parent and your 乾媽)

In your case, the most appropriate way to describe your 乾媽 in English, would be "close family friend". The visa officer would then understand you are not related to her, but she could be seen as a non-blood related authority figure to you.

The fact is. The visa officer just needs some probable reference from someone who can vouch for you. That person needs to be a citizen in good standing, know you and your history intimately. A " family friend" suggested just that.

P.S. I need to write an "invitation" letter to her, and I am trying to fill this blank at the very beginning: Dear ______,

In this case, just a simple "Dear Aunt + (her first name)" would do.

If you want to be less formal, you could use "Aunty"

Just like in Chinese, "aunt" in English can be used to address a female friend of your parents, or addressing your friends' mother.

In Western culture, there's no special term for addressing one's own godmother. You don't hear people saying something like: " Hi, Godmother Sally!" (or whatever her name is) People just call their godmothers by name, or "aunt + (her first name)" presuming she is also a friend of your parents or a mother of your friend

  • No, they are totally different from Godfather/Godmother in English.
    – John Z. Li
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 3:57
  • I never said they are the same. Just the relationship is similar
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 4:14

I think it depends on the specific relationship between you and your "干妈".

Does she depend on you economically? Or you can just say she is your friend.

  • actually in the Visa form for "Relationship" I did select "friend". She's my best friend's mother, when I was in high school, I kind of lived in their house and she took good care of me, hence I called her "干妈"
    – shenkwen
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 7:40
  • then I think "friend" is the most appropriate category in visa application.
    – Angli Xue
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 7:42
  • That's for sure. But in the "invitation" letter, I can't just use "friend"
    – shenkwen
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 7:43
  • and you can elaborate this relationship between you and this lady. As for the translation, maybe there is a word called "mother-in-love" suits this situation. But I think this may cause some confusion during the visa assessment.
    – Angli Xue
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 7:47
  • @a.xue “Mother-in-love” doesn't look like a formal word that would be suitable for a visa application.
    – 米好 '-'
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 13:26

"Godmother","Godfather" and "Godson" are the answer. But there are differences meaning of "Godmother","Godfather" and "Godson" in Ancient China and western Culture. Let Say Your father and My father are very-very close friend, your father is a famous person. Due to a strong relationship between them. Your father take me in his care. So I become his 干儿子 and he is my 干爹/义父 the wife of your father I call her 义母/干娘


The relationship of "干某某", including the Christianity godparent status, is mostly close circle relationship, it doesn't bring any legitimate meaning in any country. You invitation letter doesn't bring any ease of entry to the relevant authority unless you are someone they can account for.

So, you must first look for VISA-free status for the visitor then an invitation letter.

Otherwise, google whether particular country visitor will face entries problem. For some circumstances, you need get a signed oath paper/recommendation from legitimate personnel/reputable person(e.g. judge, oath officer, senator, mayor, etc ) from your town, that declare the visits intention.

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