So, my aunt and uncle divorced a while back. My cousin, let's name her "Ariel", was my aunt's kid, and my uncle was her stepdad. I'm related to my uncle; my "Aunt" was his wife. And as I said, my aunt left him (which I guess technically means she's not my aunt anymore). So what does that make Ariel?

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    You might try calling her "Ariel" :-)
    – jamesqf
    Nov 14, 2016 at 5:26
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    I suppose 'ex-step-cousin' could make some sense, unless Ariel still considers your uncle her step-dad in which case 'step-cousin' would still apply.
    – Řídící
    Nov 14, 2016 at 6:42
  • Aw, summelic, now I'm curious!! :) :)
    – Juan M
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:51
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    I wouldn't feel compelled to say "ex-step cousin". I would agree with agc below that "step-cousin" is sufficient. Once a step-cousin, always a step cousin. You wouldn't call Ariel your ex-step-cousin if your uncle had died and left your aunt a widow, and "ex-" implies that there is ill will between you and Ariel which I presume there is not. Indeed, where exact relationship precision isn't expected, calling Ariel your cousin would not be too presumptuous as the word "cousin" is particularly elastic in genealogy referring to almost all relations who aren't direct ancestors or descendants.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 16, 2016 at 4:52

2 Answers 2


Step-cousin <noun>

  1. The son or daughter of someone's step-uncle or step-aunt.
  2. The stepson or stepdaughter of someone's uncle or aunt.
  3. The stepson or stepdaughter of someone's step-uncle or step-aunt.


  • 1
    That's the correct word, but you quoted the wrong definition. It should be The stepson or stepdaughter of someone's uncle or aunt.
    – Barmar
    Nov 16, 2016 at 20:18

We normally refer to an uncle’s wife as an aunt but that doesn’t make it so, any more than calling a long-standing family friend with no actual relationship Aunt or Uncle makes it so.

I think my uncle’s wife is my aunt by marriage, not even my aunt-in-law (I’ve never heard such a term); certainly not really my aunt. I don’t think that’s different anywhere.

Unless the uncle adopted the girl, I think her only relationship to anyone but her mother would be step, as in step-cousin. In that case I suspect if the aunt “merely” left him it would make no difference to anything but if they were divorced, the step-relationship would cease along with the marriage.

As an uncle’s natural daughter would be your natural cousin, his step-daughter should be your step-cousin but the law might say that’s merely a social convention and no legal relationship exits (as at https://www.reference.com/family/step-cousin-f79762f39431ac31)

If the uncle legally adopted the girl, I suspect that would make her your adoptive and very possibly in law your natural cousin as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in some jurisdictions, it made her a natural and an adoptive and a step-cousin. complicated but it could work along the lines of European royal families where it might matter a great deal, or among Mark Twain’s river-folk, who sometimes have different degrees of relationship on their fathers’ and mothers’ sides. Let’s leave out the perverse relationships that incest can create.

The people who’d really know would be probate lawyers or European heralds.

In no case does “ex-“ necessarily imply ill will. Otherwise, ohwilleke is right about the flexibility of “cousin”:

You happen to bump into someone you know; you introduce her as your cousin, pure and simple.

You go together to supper with friends; you introduce her as your cousin and almost certainly, someone asks: “On which side?” in which case the whole evening might be spend just as above…

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    « We normally refer to an uncle’s wife as an aunt but that doesn’t make it so » — It does, actually. The very definition of an aunt is “The sister of one's father or mother or the wife of one's uncle”. Not “the sister of one’s father or mother”; unlike many other languages, English has no word for that. Just like your uncle remains your uncle whether he’s your father’s brother or your mother’s brother. (Also, in most places your uncle’s natural daughter would probably not be your natural sister.) Nov 28, 2016 at 16:51
  • You’re right, though, that the wife of your parent’s brother is not your aunt-in-law: that would be your spouse’s aunt (whether a sister of your spouse’s parent or the wife of you spouse’s parent’s sibling). Nov 28, 2016 at 16:54
  • Thanks for spotting "natural sister…" Duh! A lot like "your parent’s brother is not your aunt-in-law…" eh? Nov 28, 2016 at 18:40
  • The wife of your parent’s brother isn't your aunt-in-law. Though presumably your parent’s brother isn't either (unless you have a very complicated family!). Nov 28, 2016 at 18:41
  • Thanks and did you notice that en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/aunt definition seemed intended to be simplistic, if not peurile? “Aunt” for both father’s sister and their brother’s wife is a handy convention. Discussing that family’s relationships beyond “this is my aunt” almost immediately requires either “Actually, she’s my father’s brother’s wife” or “She’s my aunt by marriage”. People with big families do that all the time. Most people would understand you but “my wife’s aunt” is my wife’s aunt, not my wife in law… What would I know? My tree only goes back to 1015! Nov 28, 2016 at 18:44

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