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In Cantonese, a woman would call her mother in law her "家婆" or her "奶奶", and address her only as "奶奶".

My understanding of the same terms in Mandarin is, a woman would call her mother in law her "婆婆" and address her as "婆婆" as well (Cantonese do not do that, because "婆婆" can mean 外婆 - 'mother's mother ' in Cantonese)

My question is, do Mandarin speakers use the term "家婆" to refer to a woman's mother in law?

I also suspect Mandarin speaking women do not address their mother in law as "奶奶" because "奶奶" could also mean grand mother (father's mother) in Mandarin. (Cantonese do not use "奶奶" for "father's mother", Father's mother is 嫲嫲 or 阿嫲 in Cantonese)

Note: when Cantonese people mention Mandarin, we are referring 普通話, the official standard Mandarin dialect. Sub- dialects within Mandarin are not considered.

  • I think your thought is correct, I am from 陕西 and I know a lot of people from other parts, you should be correct. – zyy Jul 26 at 19:15
  • In Cantonese, when saying 家公, 家婆, the listener is outside the husband's family. 家 is a polite words for introducing family members like 家父,家母, 家嚴, 家慈. – OmniBus Jul 31 at 23:45
  • @OmniBus 家公, 家婆 are unique terms, different from 家父,家母, 家嚴, 家慈. We know that because we can use 家公, 家婆 to refer to other people's father in law and mother in law. For example: "你家公家婆" (your father in law and mother in law). We ca never say 你家父, only the son can refer to his father as 家父 – Tang Ho Aug 11 at 7:49
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I guess we should first remember that "Mandarin" is a related group with many dialects.

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使用者分佈圖;深綠: 官話, 淺綠: 晉語

「家婆」is topolectical (方言詞). In certain Mandarin dialects,「家婆」is a valid term for the husband's mother.

黃飛卿 《五伯娘和新兒媳》:"五伯娘,你剛做家婆就這麼嘴碎。"

Have a look at dialectical synonyms of husband's mother for the Mandarin dialects which use「家婆」for this meaning. Note: no Mandarin dialect appears to use「奶奶」for this meaning.


In Standard Chinese (普通話, 國語, 華語), which (with minor variations) is the national written and spoken standards of PRC, ROC (Taiwan), and Singapore, the word referring to husband's mother is unambiguously「婆婆」.「家婆」is non-standard.

  • interesting, But when Cantonese people mention Mandarin, we are referring 普通話, the official standard Mandarin dialect. Sub- dialects within Mandarin are not considered. Similarly, sub- dialects within 廣州話 (Canton Cantonese) would not be considered a standard Cantonese term – Tang Ho Jul 27 at 13:07
  • @TangHo the link ("dialectical synonyms of husband's mother") includes formal written standard Chinese, which only uses the word 婆婆, so if you're looking for 普通話, the answer is no. I mentioned Mandarin dialects because most other people who answer the question will either say "no", or probably mention something like I'm from XX place, and my hometown uses that word, and I natively speak Mandarin, so yes. – droooze Jul 27 at 13:09
  • @doooze you can add this in your answer, I do look for 普通話 – Tang Ho Jul 27 at 13:12
  • @doooze 奶奶 cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/11337 for the meaning of 'husband's mother ' is apparently a Cantonese only term – Tang Ho Jul 27 at 13:31
  • @TangHo Apparently people who speak 瑞金話, a dialect of 客家語, also uses 奶奶. (I can't confirm this though) – droooze Jul 27 at 13:34
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No,I’ m native mandarin speaker,i have not heard anyone use 家婆 in northern China.

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The reason I ask this question is this dictionary said the term 家婆 is used in both Cantonese and Mandarin/Standard written Chinese.

After a closer look at the entry, I noticed it only listed the jyuping (Cantonese): /gaa1 po4*2/ for this entry. The Mandarin pinyin is not listed. The only reason I can think of is this term is Cantonese only. The note that stated this term is used in both Cantonese and Mandarin is obviously incorrect

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