Is there a word or simple phrase to describe the relationship between yourself and a step-parent's ex-spouse? Particularly, I'm seeking to address the case when the ex-spouse is a parent to your step-sibling.

Example: Bob’s mother re-married to Alice’s father. How should one appropriately refer to the relation between Bob, and Alice’s mother?

I’m trying to find something that’s appropriate for a relationship closer than “Bob’s step-sister’s mother” or “Bob’s step-father’s ex-wife” but not quite so close as to just call her “Bob’s mom”.

  • Interesting question. I've always been vexed at the similar issue of how to refer to my brother's wife's sister. She's my sister-in-law's sister, or my brother's sister-in-law, but to me she's what? – Stuart Allen May 10 '11 at 3:33
  • Even if you can find a good word or phrase, prepare to be misunderstood. In a recent answer, I referred to my stepmother's father as my "step-grandfather"; at least one commenter changed this to "stepfather". – MT_Head Jun 22 '11 at 23:35

There is good Yiddish word for this, mishbucha, which according to my Jewish friends, means someone who is related to you, usually in a complicated way.

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    According to Yiddish Dictionary Online, this word is mishpokhe and means "family" or "kin". Thanks for the suggestion! – Iszi May 10 '11 at 0:29
  • I'm used to mishpacha (no 'b'; it's a 'p') describing the down-over-up of a couple's parents. My parents are my husband's parents' mishpacha and vice-versa. (This case is not served by the "in-law" form without additional modifiers.) I don't know how common its usage is with step-relations, exes, and weird cousin Billy that no one wants to talk about. – Monica Cellio Sep 4 '12 at 15:04

I think I would call her "my stepsister's mother", since that is the relationship that is important to you. Also, anyone who takes a moment to think would figure out that you are not talking about your own mother OR stepmother, since you would have said so in the first place.

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Hmm... stepmom once removed? Except that would imply a generational difference. Step-step-mom?

As you can probably tell, there isn't an official term for this.

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Short answer: there is none.

Long answer: really...there is none. There's not even a single word to distinguish a blood relative much less those separated by two steps of not being related.

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In-law would cover it, though possibly too general. And yes, technically she isn't your *anything-in-law, but the word, in my experience, expands to cover cases like this.

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  • I like to call not-quite-relatives of this sort (I have several myself) "out-laws". – MT_Head Jun 22 '11 at 23:33

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