Is my mother's step-father, my step-grandfather? To what extent is it usual to extend the prefix 'step'?

Can we speak of 'step-cousins', step-aunts and step-uncles etc? If we can it must make for considerable complication in how such relationships are defined.

  • I think if it goes beyond the direct relationship (i.e: stepfather, stepbrother, stepsister and stepmother) it gets very confusing.
    – Hesham
    Feb 10, 2014 at 23:46
  • 1
    You should add "in-laws" to this too...you can marry into such a complicated relation!
    – Oldcat
    Feb 11, 2014 at 0:17
  • While I understand the theoretical value of the step- clarification, after the immediacy of whether you were there when I was conceived, the designation has little value (except for genetic disease screening). My step-brother is my brother. My wife is my grandson's grandmother (even though she is not his father's mother). She has been in a grandmotherly relationship from the moment he was conceived!
    – bib
    Feb 11, 2014 at 0:24
  • @bib I don't understand where you're coming from. Having the same childhood and sharing the same genetic pool has a big impact on your relationship and life in general. Your step-brother IS your brother, but that doesn't imply that it's not worth noting that he is your step-brother.
    – Jeremy
    Feb 11, 2014 at 0:28
  • 1
    @Jeremy I have two step-brothers who are my brothers,and have been for 48 years. Most relationships beyond immediate family (e.g., step -grandparents, etc.) run for the entire life of the younger step- relatives, yielding no differences except DNA. And DNA is highly overrated.
    – bib
    Feb 11, 2014 at 0:37

2 Answers 2


Of the combining form step-, Oxford Dictionaries only says:

denoting a relationship resulting from a remarriage

Past immediate step-parents or step-siblings, I no longer find the distinction useful.

Introduce your mom's stepfather as "My mom's stepfather."

Likewise with your stepmom's sister, your aunt's stepdaughter, and so forth.


I did a quick NGrams, and -father has 106, to -grandfathers 9, -uncle -4 and cousin 1. And father was far more common in the 1860s than that.

I left out the female side, aside from half of cousin.

So it appears the more distant the relation, the frequency of stepping drops by about a factor of 10.

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