From what I've known from watching Chinese dramas, siblings or fellow disciples may refer to each other as:

  • "big brother/sister" (oldest/first)
  • "2nd/3rd brother/sister" (in-between)
  • "little brother/sister" (youngest/last)

But I came across a translation of Hometown (故鄉) by Lu Xun, in which there's a lady known only as 杨二嫂 (I Googled this Chinese form). I guess this means "wife of a guy who is the second sibling".

Could anyone here who's read this one tell me what it really means? If that woman is called "Second Older Aunt-in-Law Yang", would it make her husband "Second Older Uncle Yang"? (by the way, is "Yang" her name or her husband's name?)

Does this work the same way for women and their husbands? And does it work the same way with "younger uncles/aunts"?

  • Except for Tang's answer, it could simply be a name(or nickname, whatever) depending on the context. She doesn't have to be your sibling's wife, people just call her like that because she never has a real name or her real name is never mentioned in the context. Nov 7, 2018 at 4:09
  • By traditional social convention, one does not necessarily have to be a family member to call her 二嫂, (second sister-in-law) A person could be a friend of a family member who calls her that, and since it was traditionally impolite to call her by her personal name, (and 杨太太 may sound too formal for a family friend), the friend just follows the family member's lead in addressing her. After all, traditionally, (even in non-Chinese societies), everyone is "family" Aug 5, 2020 at 10:12

2 Answers 2


嫂 means "sister-in-law"

杨二嫂 means "wife of the second son of the Yang family".

It doesn't matter if you are the elder son or third son in the Yang family, she is still 二嫂 (second sister-in-law) to you. The character 二 here doesn't indicate older or younger, it indicates the second born.

Outsiders would call her 杨二嫂 to indicate they are addressing the "Yang's second daughter-in-law.

"second aunt-in-law Yang" is 杨二嬸

"second uncle-in-law Yang" is 杨二叔

  • I've edited this post a little, for clarity. Please check again, in case I inadvertently changed the meaning of what you wanted to say. Thanks!
    – blackgreen
    Aug 5, 2020 at 9:49

I read Hometown decade ago, 杨二嫂 is more like her name in this book. But usually, 嫂 means someone's 'sister-in-law' in Mandarin, and means she married someone's 2nd elder brother.

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