In the context of family, the term "immediate" refers to member of the family connected by birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership, or cohabitation.

Is t here a term that refers to the rest of the family?

  • @speedyGonzales, I need a word that describes "family". May 22, 2013 at 9:28
  • Here's a related article: phrasemix.com/answers/… May 22, 2013 at 9:33
  • "Opposite" is not really the correct term, here. Opposite suggests antonym, which would make "distant" more appropriate. You want "all members of the set 'family' who are not members of the set 'immediate family'", and so "extended" is more useful. "Not X" is a different thing from "The opposite of X".
    – itsbruce
    Jun 7, 2013 at 16:46
  • One's "libidinous great-great-great-grandpa's descendants." Oct 20, 2014 at 22:18

7 Answers 7


Extended family is the usual term covering in-laws, cousins, and so forth.

  • 3
    I was at a wedding this weekend and the photographer was taking photos first of the immediate family and then of the extended family. May 22, 2013 at 9:59
  • 1
    I would definitely agree with Extended and not Distant. Distant is more concerned with the actual nitty-gritty constituents and dynamic of a relationship not what the hierarchical relationship actually is - to be honest, you could have a Distant, immediate brother. May 22, 2013 at 10:11
  • 13
    @JamesStott I'd say that "distant" can carry the same meaning as "extended," but it's usually applied to a single person -- a distant cousin (second cousin, twice removed) is part of your extended family. Of course, I also agree that "distant" can refer to either emotional or genealogical distance.
    – apsillers
    May 22, 2013 at 13:05
  • 1
    Extended can carry the connotation of including both immediate and distant family, so for a true opposite, Brian Hooper's answer is actually better. Jun 21, 2013 at 12:20

I'd suggest you probably want distant:-

  1. Far apart in relationship: a distant cousin.

The opposite of immediate relatives, to me, would be remote relatives. And "the word that describes family" would be, well, family.

  • 4
    Do you actually use "Remote relatives" to denote such relatives? Have heard such term for the first time.
    – Mohit
    May 22, 2013 at 10:27
  • 1
    @Mohit, I've heard remote used for this but chiefly in the phrase remote ancestor. May 22, 2013 at 11:30
  • @Mohit yes, I actually use it. Apparently so does the San Francisco Chronicle and a bunch of books on Google Books. I never said it was popular, let alone the most popular. In fact I expressly added "to me".
    – RegDwigнt
    May 22, 2013 at 12:16
  • To me, remote relatives would be more removed than extended relatives, and may well be several generations removed.
    – TrevorD
    May 22, 2013 at 12:26
  • @BrianHooper - Hmm. I see. We, in India, use "distant relatives" a lot to refer to relatives outside the immediate circle. I never happened to refer to any ancient ancestor of mine, so never got to use "remote ancestor".
    – Mohit
    May 24, 2013 at 4:29

I would also say distant. I've never actually heard remote being used to refer to relatives who's ties to you are distant / far-apart.


I hear (and use) "blended family" for the result of divorce, remarriage etc.


The word "family"--in my experience--is only utilized with "immediate", whereas when using "remote" or "distant" I'd switch to "relative" or "relatives."


I think I like “external” as my opposite of immediate family. Immediate are those in my family reunion photos, those I see or discuss or think about on a regular basis. Everyone else is outside of my window of immediate or typically secondary importance. Therefore they are externally important family. That works yes?

  • Welcome to ELU. It’s good practice to include a reference of some sort to back up your answer so that it isn’t only opinion-based, although the multiple answers to this particular question don’t necessarily follow that!
    – Pam
    Aug 5, 2018 at 19:32

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