How can I know the exact meaning of the word cousin in a sentence? How do English speakers distinguish between different kinds of cousins?
(Arabic distinguishes both the sex of the cousin and the side of the family —Cindi/Google)
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Your question is very unclear, but I suspect that you're wondering if English has a way to distinguish between any of these kinds of relationships:
The answer is no. English uses the same word cousin for all of these relationships, and there is no single word that distinguishes between any of these combinations. If you really need to specify the gender, for example, you can say "male cousin" or (more informally) "boy cousin". If you want to specify whether you're related to a cousin through your mother or through your father, you say "cousin on my mother's side" or "cousin on my father's side".
Many other languages have separate words for at least some of these relationships, but English doesn't. English speakers get along just fine without special words for these relationships, and often find it very difficult to consistently make these distinctions when learning a foreign language.
English, as famous as it is for having a large vocabulary coming from a Germanic and Romance base and bolstered by a huge influx of Latin and Greek neologisms, is notoriously lacking in kinship terms. There is little distinction in terms of sex/ side of family, marriage relation,
So the answer to your question is there is no -easy- fluent way to translate exactly. You'd have to say in English 'my mother's sister's son' to specify the real family tree relation.
How can I know the exact meaning of "cousin" in a sentence? How do English speakers distinguish between different kinds of cousins?
How do you tell if a person being discussed is left handed or right handed? If you needed to know, the speaker should have told yuou.
If the usage and context doesn't provide you enough information to determine this, either the speaker made an error or the speaker didn't intend for you to have this information. Necessary information will be missing if speakers make errors. And, of course, there's no way to extract information from a sentence that the speaker chose not to put in there.
You need to add modifiers.
In fact, cousin is a very general word. English has thirteen commonly-used kinship terms (+ many synonyms):
For anything else, we have to add modifiers like great, grand, full, half, step, maternal, paternal or in-law. And if you want to specify the sex of your cousin, you can add the modifier male.
(* I included grandmother and grandfather in the list above because they have been lexicalised -- in ordinary speech we treat them as words in their own right, rather than modifications of mother and father.)
There is also a system of terminology that genealogists use to describe relationships exactly, but I don't think your question was about specialist jargon.
As JSBangs said, there are not several different words for cousins to distinguish between maternal and paternal cousins or the gender of the cousins. The only terms we have are the ones that differentiate generation.
First cousin, or simply 'cousin', refers to the child of your aunt or uncle. Or to put it another way, people with the one set of matching grandparents.
Second cousin refers to the child of your parents first cousin, or one set of matching great-grandparents.
The removed qualifier is added to show that you are one level off from the above definition. So if your grandparents are their great-grandparents (i.e. your cousin's kid) you would be first cousins once removed.
Thank you for your interest in this question.
Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).
Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?