I know there is 祖父母, but that's only paternal grandparents. Is there a word that the encompasses grandparents from either side or together?

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    祖父母 (father's side), 外祖父母 (mother's side) and we don't mix them together like brothers and sisters (兄弟; 姐妹)
    – Tang Ho
    Dec 30, 2020 at 4:15
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    try 你父母的父母 (the parents of your parents)
    – Tang Ho
    Dec 30, 2020 at 5:36
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    "try 你父母的父母" -- :) So, great grandparents become 你父母的父母的父母? How about great, great grandparents? :) Dec 30, 2020 at 9:45
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    the collective word for them is 祖輩
    – Tang Ho
    Dec 30, 2020 at 10:11
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    I feel like it should be (父+母)², and for great grandparents (父+母)³, and so on.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Dec 30, 2020 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


Unlike brothers; sisters (兄弟; 姐妹), Chinese don't have a collective word for 祖父母 (grandparents from father's side) and 外祖父母 (grandparents from mother's side)

If you had to write grandparents and didn't know if there are maternal or paternal grandparents, you can write 父母的父母 (the parents of one's parents), which encompasses one's all four grandparents

We do have a collective word 祖輩 for 'ancestors' and great grandparents are included in this term so you don't have to write 父母的父母的父母 for it


祖父輩 (Grandfather's generation) encompasses the whole generation, which includes grandparents and granduncles


There is no formal word that encompasses grandparents from either side or together, but no one will complain if you use 祖父母 to refer to both sides. If anyone does complain, then tell them that you feel that it's sexism to differentiate paternal and maternal relatives or any other reason you can think of.

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    Quote:- "...no one will complain if you use 祖父母 to refer to both sides" Since 祖 is translated into English as "ancestral", and since your grandparents from both sides are collectively your "ancestors", technically they are all your 祖父母? Dec 30, 2020 at 9:57
  • I think 祖 means paternal, not ancestral.
    – Redwood
    Dec 31, 2020 at 3:49
  • You may think 祖 means paternal and 外祖 means maternal, but it is not the case. 祖 means ancestral and 外 means external. Historically women are regarded to be "transferred" to the husband's family and no longer relates to her original family, therefore the 外 to imply that maternal relatives are unimportant and have no connections other than blood ties - definitely not applicable to modern society.
    – Agrit
    Dec 31, 2020 at 10:53

If you want to be clear in referring to both your mother and father's parents, instead of 祖父母 (which presumably refers to your father's parents) you might say 外內祖父母.

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