Are there specific terms used to more broadly refer to the generation or which generation people are in?

  • The first term would refer to the generation considering of mother, father, the mother or father's brothers and sisters and same-generation cousins, etc.
  • The second term would refer to the grandmothers, grandfathers and the grandparent's brothers, sisters, and same-generation cousins, etc.

  • The terms need only apply within a specific family, not related to the age or year of birth.

Is there a term or method of annotation used to refer generally to the people found in previous generations at these different distances relative to a single person or the youngest generation?

  • My cousins are in "my generation", my uncles and aunts and parents are in "my parents' generation", my great uncles and aunts are in "my grandparent's generation".
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:46

9 Answers 9


Removed is the broadest term you can use for this.

You can say one generation removed to refer to the parents' generation within a family.

You can say two generations removed to refer to the grandparents' generation.

And, so on.

The major advantage of this is that you can use it indefinitely.

Note that these numbers are exactly one less than the Ahnentafel numbers. So, if your parents are Ahnentafel #2, they are one generation removed. Grandparents Ahnentafel #3, two generations removed.

That said, it is perfectly appropriate to refer to the parents' generation, grandparents' generation, great-grandparents, etc. etc. These terms are routinely used in publication. And, have the advantage of being readily understood by your reader without significant mathematics to figure them out.

Additionally, even if your quest is successful and you find an obscure word that means exactly what you are hoping it will . . . Your reader will be forced to look up that obscure word, or attempt to understand it context. As, I assume, your goal is to have a document of some nature that is easily understood by its target audience, I would suggest that you consider using readily understood terms.

A couple of online resources to help you:

A relationship calculator which tells you how people are related. It is very helpful to figure out cousins, etc.

An Ahnentafel calculator which is helpful should you decide to utilize the genealogical standard terminology.

And, a link to Steve Morse's One-step Web Page which is a one-stop shopping site on genealogical resources, especially Jewish ones, but many of his tools are applicable to all.


20th-21st century America

The Lost Generation was a term originally used to identify a group of American literary expatriates living in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s; it is now used more generally to describe the generation of young people who came of age in the United States during and shortly after World War I.

The Greatest Generation is the worldwide generation of Allies that served in World War II. This group overlaps with the G.I. Generation, the generation of vetrans that fought and won World War II, later to become the Establishment, and the parents of children who would later become the Baby Boomers.

The Silent Generation was the generation born between the two World Wars, who were too young to join the service when World War II started. Many had fathers who served in World War I. (1925-1945)

The Baby Boomers were the generation born during or just after World War II (between 1946 and 1964), a time that included a 14-year increase in birthrate worldwide. Baby Boomers in their teen and college years were characteristically part of the 1960s counterculture, but later became more conservative, eventually gave birth to Generations X and Y. Most academic and demographic literature uses 1946 and 1964 as the cutoff years of the Baby Boom generation.

Generation Jones is the generation born between the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Jonesers are primarily the offspring of the Silent Generation; mostly they were children in the 1960s, and teens in the 1970s.

Generation X is the generation born between approximately 1965 to 1980, although the birth years are sometimes cited as early as 1960, and as late as 1989. Other names used interchangeably with Generation X are 13th Generation and Baby Busters. Most of this generation are children of The Silent Generation. They tended to grow up with video games and MTV, and spent most of their teen years in the 1980s.

XY Cusp, also known as the MTV Generation, was caught between the end of Generation X and start of Generation Y, mainly living out their childhood through the 80s and teen years in the mid-90s. This generation was influenced by the launch of MTV, and the popularization of Web technology after 1995. Their peak is usually given as (1975-1985).

Boomerang Generation, was a sub-group of Generation Y, growing up in the '90s and early 2000s, whose emergent experiences straddled the Cold War/Space Age and Internet eras. In many ways more connected to the G.I. Generation than other recent generations, this group came of age in the period directly following the September 11th attacks. (1982-1986)

Generation Y, also known as the Echo Boom, or Millennial Generation, grew up with many world-changing events including the rise of mass communication, the Internet, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Y Generation is known as a Culture War "battleground" with growing disagreements between conservative and liberal perspectives. (1976-2001 is the widest possible definition commonly cited.)

iGeneration, the Internet generation, is a subgeneration for the latter half of Generation Y (1991-1999) and the first half of Generation Z (2000-2005).

Generation Z, or New Silent Generation, is the youngest of generations thus far.

If you wish to read up more, you can click here.

  • This is very useful, but doesn't provide the general descriptors that the question is seeking - these terms are meaningless to speakers of English outside of the USA.
    – DallaLiyly
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 10:01

What I gather from reading the comments is that you want a term that is appropriate for formal/academic writing (thus ruling out "our/my parents' generation") but also something that is not specific to a particular era/decade.

What about "first generation", "second generation", etc? This is called Ahnentafel and a is a numbering system used in genealogy:

(First Generation) 1 Subject

(Second Generation) 2 Father 3 Mother

(Third Generation) 4 Father's father 5 Father's mother 6 Mother's father 7 Mother's mother

(Fourth Generation) 8 Father's father's father 9 Father's father's mother 10 Father's mother's father 11 Father's mother's mother 12 Mother's father's father 13 Mother's father's mother 14 Mother's mother's father 15 Mother's mother's mother

I believe that "first/second, etc generation" would make sense to people even if they are unfamiliar with genealogy (the actual numbers within the generations maybe not so much). In any case, you could take a few sentences to define the terms if necessary.

I know this doesn't cover cousins and other more distant relatives, but you may find something here or could certainly modify an existing system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogical_numbering_systems

If it were me, I might consider something like

The subject's first preceding generation, second preceding generation, (maternal/paternal) aunts/uncles/cousins in the third preceding generation, etc.

  • Plus one for Ahnentafel! It is a mouthful, but it is a really appropriate word for scholarly use in genealogy!
    – David M
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 13:13

Good question.

I'm not sure that first, second, third generation are universally understood in the way nxx defined them.

For instance, if I say, 'I'm a third-generation Londoner', my direction of counting is from my ancestors to me, and my 'third' would be his 'first'.

My meaning would be that my grandparents were born and lived in London. Same for my parents and for me, but not for my great-grandparents.

Obviously this would most likely be made clear from the context, but it's a distinction worth bearing in mind.

The simplest descriptors would be 'my parents' generation', 'my grandparents' generation', etc.

Other words you might find useful are:

Progenitor (founding member of a line)
Immediate forebears (parents' generation)

  • Good point about the direction of counting and what people might think is meant. I did not mean that the system is universally understood, but that it could be understood in context. I think there would be nothing wrong with using what seems to be an accepted genealogical system given that they are referring to genealogy, and they could certainly clarify the way in which they are using the terms.
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 15:25

The usual technical terms used by kinship experts are

  • First Ascending Generation (from Ego, the center point)
    for Ego's parents' generation

  • Second Ascending Generation (ditto)
    for Ego's grandparents' generation

You can see how the rest of it goes; Descending Generations are for Ego's descendants.

Boringly regular, I'm afraid, but that's terminology for you.


"My parents' (grandparents') generation" is perfectly good English. There is no reason not to use them in an academic paper.


Depending on the context, I would do one of the following:

A) refer to the era by a name that people generally use for it:

e.g. my grandparents = The Greatest Generation / my parents = the Reagan years / my great grandparents = the Great Depression.

Obviously this will be limited to a culture / time and place. I severely doubt people in China talk about the Reagan years, but they probably remember Deng Xiaopeng.

B) refer to it by saying... parents or grandparents in a way that makes it obvious I don't mean just my own but rather our parents. Or along the same lines, you can use as you do in your title: parent's generation and grandparent's generation. Again, throw in an our.

C) Refer to it by the actual year range and let the reader infer.

D) Our predecessors for parents. Our predecessor's predecessors for theirs.

  • "parent's generation" and "grandparent's generation" is closest to what I am looking for, but perhaps there is a more technical or precise term?
    – Village
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 13:31
  • technical as in used by people that do genealogies or technical in what respect?
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 13:47
  • Perhaps. Something more precise and more formal or an abbreviated or notation form for this. In an academic paper, if someone needed to write about this many times, I think "parent's generation" would not be precise or clear enough at all times.
    – Village
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 13:41
  • For an academic paper, I would go with predecessors or progenitors and progeny for those that come before and after respectively. The context was not specified so I gave as many possibilities as possible.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 15:09

I disagree that parents' generation and grandparents' generation are unsuitable for use in an academic paper. What constitutes sufficient formality ultimately depends on the reader/reviewer, but you certainly aren't going to beat those terms for clarity or precision.

The only small issue with those terms (you may have already noticed from other people's answers and comments) is that it makes more sense from an English writing standpoint to put the apostrophes at the very end, because you're referring to the generation of your parents and grandparents. That is, the generation belongs not just to one parent or one grandparent. (From a mathematical logic standpoint, though, your mother's generation is the same as your father's generation, so parent's generation wouldn't be wrong, exactly.)

If you still have concerns that repeated use of these terms will simply become unwieldy because of their length, then you could try defining your own notation at the outset and using it throughout the paper. nxx's suggestion of first generation, second generation, etc. isn't bad, but it doesn't gain a whole lot in terms of reducing verbosity. If you're serious about being concise, abandon words and just do something like G1 and G2.

  • Ah yes, good point: the "my" can be omitted, and "parents' generation" and the like are just fine. But the problem there will be when going several generations back: the subject's great-great-great-grandparents' generation. G1, G2, etc is a nice idea.
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 23:40
  • +1 for the conciseness, accessibility, and clarity of these terms. I also agree that they would be completely acceptable in formal writing.
    – DallaLiyly
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 10:03

My parents' generation and my grandparents' generation should be perfectly acceptable here.

Depending on the article itself and who is the main focus of the generation, you could easily use my grandmother's generation or my father's generation.

Also, note the use of apostrophe. It should be outside the s for grandparents or parents (grandparents' generation) as it is the generation of your grandparents, and then inside the s for grandfather or mother (grandfather's generation) as it is the generation of your grandfather.

In relation to some of the other answers: Ancestors would be a better term than Predecessors. It's more familial.

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