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干父母 (if I may use this term):

干爹 = 义父

干妈 = 义母

so 干父母 = 义父母

but what does it mean?

拜认为父母

English translations usually go like this:

干爹 = godfather

干妈 = godmother

义父 = stepfather (adoptive father/foster mother)

义母 = stepmother (adoptive mother/foster mother)

I'm not sure where all the different definitions come from but according to Chinese definitions they all just mean to formally acknowledge (拜认) someone as father or mother.


Wikipedia Godparent entry defines a godparent as:

In both Christian and secular views, a godparent tends to be an individual chosen by the parents to take an interest in the child's upbringing and personal development, and to take care of the child should anything happen to the parents.

Which doesn't seem to fit the above definition.

Adoptive / foster seems like it could fit - in specified situations but not as a rule.

What do these concepts equate to?

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I had answered what is 干父母 here: How to translate "干妈","干爸/义父","干儿子/义子“?

The concept of 乾媽 and 乾爹 in Chinese culture is almost the same as " godmother and godfather in Western countries

  • Since there are no equivalent terms of 干父母 in English, 'Godfather' and 'Godmother' would have to do.

  • As for '义父母', it is just another name for '养父母' (adoptive parents)

Strictly speaking, you should address your adoptive parents as 义父, 义母; But you can refer other people's adoptive parents as 'his 养父' or 'her 养母'.

In modern societies, adoptive parents enjoy the same status as actual parents. Most adopted children just address them as their parents, and only refer them as 义父母 or 养父母 to the third parties.

  • Step father and stepmother in Chinese are 继父/继母 or 后父/后母
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As a Chinese, I would like to say 干爹=Godfather and it's not 100% that chosen by the parents. For example, there's an old man who treats me very good and I asked him to be my godfather. 义父 means adoptive father but he' is not step father.

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No, there is no such things as "Godparent" in Chinese culture.

The closest definition is "guardian", "caretaker".

"干" in Chinese relationship, it means non-bloodline relative.

"义” also carried similars meaning.

For adoption, 养 is used, 养父母 For remarried family, one of parent is called "后", i.e. 后父 or 后母。 You can never say 后父母 (Nevertheless, there is some rare cases) .

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