Please see Title. I'm not specifically referring to which language they came from... but if they come from something else. In other words, do they come from words with other meanings.

For example, do words for children come from a word that means "being that comes from one's loins" or something.

  • 3
    If you would be asking the origin of the four words you listed, the question would be acceptable. As the question is about an undefined number of words, it is not acceptable, IMO.
    – apaderno
    Aug 23, 2010 at 4:03
  • etc. removed. I thought that it would be clear that I was also including other ways of referring to family members.
    – OneProton
    Aug 23, 2010 at 7:02

5 Answers 5


I extracted the following from the online Webster Dictionary. It's interesting to see how all these words were transformed from Latin/Greek/Old High German/Middle English to the current English words.

Note: I know that this does not exactly answer your question, since you actually want to know if the words derived from words with other meanings. But I think that having the full list of originating languages here may be useful as other answers to your question may refer to it.


Middle English, doughter, from Old English dohtor; akin to Old High German tohter daughter, Greek thygatēr

First Known Use: before 12th century


Middle English sone, from Old English sunu; akin to Old High German sun son, Greek hyios

First Known Use: before 12th century


Middle English, from Old French ante, from Latin amita; akin to Old High German amma mother, nurse, Greek amma nurse

First Known Use: 14th century


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin avunculus mother's brother; akin to Old English ēam uncle, Welsh ewythr, Latin avus grandfather

First Known Use: 14th century


Middle English moder, from Old English mōdor; akin to Old High German muoter mother, Latin mater, Greek mētēr, Sanskrit mātṛ

First Known Use: before 12th century


Middle English fader, from Old English fæder; akin to Old High German fater father, Latin pater, Greek patēr

First Known Use: before 12th century


Middle English cosin, from Anglo-French cusin, cosin, from Latin consobrinus, from com- + sobrinus second cousin, from soror sister — more at sister

First Known Use: 13th century


Middle English nevew, from Anglo-French nevou, neveu, from Latin nepot-, nepos grandson, nephew; akin to Old English nefa grandson, nephew, Sanskrit napāt grandson

First Known Use: 14th century


Middle English nece granddaughter, niece, from Anglo-French nece, niece, from Late Latin neptia, from Latin neptis; akin to Latin nepot-, nepos grandson, nephew

First Known Use: 14th century



  • Yeah, I found some of those as well. Nephew/Niece is interesting. It looks like the root also is used in words like "nepotism" but that's just an observation.
    – OneProton
    Aug 23, 2010 at 16:32
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    It's not necessarily obvious above, but uncle in Latin is "little grandfather." The first-degree relations are pretty much straight from German roots.
    – moioci
    Aug 24, 2010 at 2:46
  • Thanks moioci. I wonder how far back we can trace the meaning of words like mother and father, though. I would guess that these words have been around for so long that their original meaning is perhaps lost.
    – OneProton
    Aug 24, 2010 at 14:59
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    @Atømix probably mother was among the first words ever invented by the human race. Father may have come a little later. When did the cavemen realize that people had a father? :-)
    – b.roth
    Aug 24, 2010 at 15:53
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    In relation to (no pun intended!)your comment about the word mother probably having been around since the beginning of the human race, I believe that the "Muh.." vocalization is the first sound that most babies utter quite naturally, and so that is probably why it evolved as the word for mother in many languages.
    – user38546
    Mar 1, 2013 at 20:24

etymonline.com gives the origins and original-language meanings of most of these words (with the exception of the meaning of "daughter", which John Cowan describes in his answer).

In brief, focusing on meanings:

Mother meant "female parent" in Old English, and presumably something similar in its origin languages. It was

"[b]ased ultimately on the baby-talk form *mā- (2); with the kinship term suffix *-ter-"

Father derived similarly, but there is this additional note:

Spelling with -th- (15c.) reflects widespread phonetic shift in Middle English that turned -der to -ther in many words

Son is ultimately

a derived noun from root *seue- (1) "to give birth"

and came to mean "son, descendant" in Old English.


from Latin consobrinus "cousin," originally "mother's sister's son,"

Nephew in PIE meant

"grandchild," and in a general sense, "male descendant other than son"

This became "sister's son, grandson, descendant," in Latin. Niece is a Late Latin feminine form of the Latin for "nephew".

Aunt has this:

from Latin amita "paternal aunt" diminutive of *amma a baby-talk word for "mother"

And uncle:

from Latin avunculus "mother's brother," literally "little grandfather," diminutive of avus "grandfather," from PIE root *awo- "grandfather, adult male relative other than one's father" [...] Replaced Old English eam (usually maternal; paternal uncle was fædera).

Child, similar to the example sentence in the question, relates to words meaning "womb"/"pregnant", coming to mean ""fetus, infant, unborn or newly born person" in Old English.


I was searching for the origin of daughter in my mother language, Persian, and then I found this post and I thought it's worth sharing it. In ancient Persia the young female member of family, basically daughter, were called doog taar 'doog' meant milk and the 'taar' at the end makes it a noun meaning the person who milk the cows. This later changed in Persian to dookh taar and now in Farsi dokh taar - kh in Farsi is pronounce pretty much similar to German's gh and this word in German is pronounced very similar to Farsi.

Just in case someone needs a reference here is the link to Wiki, however, it's in Farsi language: This Link


Mother, father, son, brother, sister have pretty much always meant what they mean today. It's clear that mother and father are ultimately derived from adult reinterpretation of babies' babbling things like /mamama/ and /dadada/; this is a worldwide process that gives us both informal and formal words for parents, and is constantly self-renewing. Brother and sister may also be of this type.

Daughter, however, is ultimately 'milker', from the Proto-Indo-European root *dheugh- 'press, touch, milk'; this change in meaning goes back to before PIE broke up into the various families. All these words except sister have a common suffix, whose meaning is unknown; sister picked up its /t/ at the Proto-Germanic stage, and the other language families do not show /t/.

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    The ‘milker’ etymology is somewhat dubious. For one thing, the ‘daughter’ word does not appear to have *-gʰ-, but *-gh₂-, while the milking root has a clear *-gʰ-. This could be due to the fact that the kinship suffix is really *h₂ter-, rather than just *-ter-, but then we’re left with the unfortunate state of having to explain why a kinship suffix seems to also be an agent noun suffix (like *-ter- is). ‘Father’ suffers from the same problem. ‘Sister’ (PIE *su̯ésōr) is almost certainly *su̯e- ‘self, own’ + an archaic noun *sor- ‘woman/girl’, i.e., ‘(our) own woman/girl’. Feb 9, 2014 at 16:22
  • @curiousdannii I wish you had not restored my answer, below, which I have now deleted as per the custom on this site. When I thought it over, and did more research, I realized that my answer was falsely erudite and naïve and that it was beyond my capacity to improve it. I am embarrassed by the answer, and I wish it could vanish into a black hole, never to be seen again, even in pale mauve.
    – ab2
    Jul 29, 2015 at 12:39
  • A newer idea is that ph2ter is actually from *peh2-_</i> 'protect' plus _*-ter, and that this was eventually reanalyzed to yield a new suffix_*-h2ter_
    – John Cowan
    Mar 18, 2016 at 13:37

I have the idea that Latin pater (father) might have been ○parantor (para.tor pa...tor pater), from the verb parare meaning prepare. So the idea might have been: He who was the preparing part.

No idea as to Greek thygater. I have the impression it is a word from neighbouring languages the Greeks have adopted and perhaps transformed.

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