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Dad’s sibling’s son (if older than you) - 堂兄

Dad’s sibling’s son (if younger than you) - 堂弟

Dad’s sibling’s daughter (if older than you) - 堂姐

Dad’s sibling’s daughter (if younger than you) - 堂妹

Is this right? My mom says a dad's female sibling's offspring is not 堂妹、堂姐。My book says it is. Who is right?

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  • 可能我对address理解得不对,如果仅是"称呼"的话,中文里同辈之间完全可以像英文里那样,直接叫他们的名字。
    – Zhang
    Dec 2, 2020 at 2:28
  • A quick way of knowing is by your cousins' surname (provided everyone married someone with a different surname). If you have the same surname as your cousin, you are 堂 (from the same paternal genealogy tree), otherwise, 表. Dec 3, 2020 at 13:12

3 Answers 3

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First of all, 堂 and 表 are now mainly used in formal language, such as a kinship notarial certificate. We rarely use those terms in oral speech.

The completely male-side cousins are called 堂房, abbreviated to 堂. Other cousins are called 中表, abbreviated to 表.

Father is male and father's brother is male - 堂

Father's sister is female - 表

Mother is female - 表


Father's brother's son, older than ego - 堂兄

Father's brother's son, younger than ego - 堂弟

Father's brother's daughter, older than ego - 堂姐

Father brother's daughter, younger than ego - 堂妹


Father's sister's son, older than ego - 表兄

Father's sister's son, younger than ego - 表弟

Father's sister's daughter, older than ego - 表姐

Father sister's daughter, younger than ego - 表妹


Mother's sibling's son, older than ego - 表兄

Mother's sibling's son, younger than ego - 表弟

Mother's sibling's daughter, older than ego - 表姐

Mother's sibling's daughter, younger than ego - 表妹

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Your mom is correct:

Dad’s brothers' son (if older than you) - 堂兄

Dad’s brothers' son (if younger than you) - 堂弟

Dad’s brothers' daughter (if older than you) - 堂姐

Dad’s brothers' daughter (if younger than you) - 堂妹

All other cousins by birth, ie, dad's sisters' children and mom's siblings' children:

Older male cousins - 表兄

Younger male cousins - 表弟

Older female cousins - 表姐

Younger female cousins - 表妹

Your "堂" cousins are those who share your family name. In a patriarchal society, they are considered closer, and thus have a different address term.

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  • so what about the book? did it change?
    – Redwood
    Dec 1, 2020 at 22:52
  • Not sure what you mean. Your father's sisters' children are your 表兄,表弟,表姐 and 表妹, NOT 堂兄,堂弟,堂姐,堂妹. Also note that these address terms are reciprocal. Your father's sisters' children are your 表-cousin; you are also their 表-cousin, since you are their mother's brother's child.
    – monalisa
    Dec 2, 2020 at 0:43
  • We use 堂 for cousins with the same surname, but shouldn't we change it? Since, now men don't always carry the last name. What if a couple decides to keep the female's last name?
    – Redwood
    Dec 2, 2020 at 1:08
  • @Wisesequoia There is no regulation about this, only tradition. When someone decides to break the tradition, they must decide by himself how these would apply, maybe also negotiating with relative parties. There is no rule to follow from there.
    – fefe
    Dec 2, 2020 at 2:10
  • @Wisesequoia, I thought about that too, but men carrying the family name is still by far the norm. That's why I added the part about a patriarchal society. If and when society evolves into something else, I am sure the language will adapt.
    – monalisa
    Dec 2, 2020 at 4:48
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This might differ from region to region.

In addition to monalisa's anwser:

From where my mother was born (somewhere around Baoding), children of mother's female siblings are prefixed with "姨": 姨兄 姨弟 姨姐 姨妹

Also, for 堂兄, 堂弟, 堂姐, 堂妹, when we call each other, we just use 哥哥,弟弟,姐姐,妹妹, or some derived terms, such as 大哥, 二哥. There word with "堂" seems only used when introducing the explicit relationship to others. Even in this situation, there is a word that is used more often used than "堂", which is "叔伯", like 他是我的叔伯哥哥 (instead of 他是我的堂兄).

Again, all above might be regional usage.

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  • wow that's pretty cool. Although, I think 堂 and 表 are the standard versions. Since both my parents recognize it, and they come from different regions.
    – Redwood
    Dec 2, 2020 at 2:07
  • Exactly. 堂X/表X is too formal and too distant to be used in front of one's cousin himself/herself. Dec 2, 2020 at 3:38

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