When explaining to someone learning French when one has to use vous (the “formal you” pronoun) or tu (the “informal you” pronoun), there is a basic rule of thumb I find useful:

  • Vous — Used when speaking to people you usually call by their last name, title, or occupation.

    for example: Ms Smith, Sir, Doctor, Officer...

  • Tu — Used when speaking to people you usually call by their first name, nickname, or [? some word or phrase meaning informal/familiar family nickname ?].

    for example: Georges, G-dog, Grandpa...

I’m trying to find a word or short phrase to describe “family nicknames” like Dad, Nana, etc., preferably one that doesn’t include the more formal versions like Father, Grandmother, etc.


5 Answers 5


They are kinship terms (or kinship words).

This special class may overlap with what are known as terms of endearment: those words we use to address people for which we feel affection.


Dad, being an informal word for “father”? So the collective term you are looking for is “Informal Addresses” of Family Members?

  • Please add a source to support this term's usage. Take a moment to tour the site and read the FAQ on how to answer.
    – livresque
    Oct 1, 2020 at 22:51

Mom, Dad, Nana, Opa, etc., are informal names for family members to be used when speaking to someone you know well (call by their first names).

Mother, Father, Grandmother, Grandfather, etc., are formal names for family members to be used when speaking to someone you know formally (call Mr./Ms. Last-Name).


Edit: Informal Familial Titles (What is this group of words used as informal family nicknames called?) as explained above.

  • 1
    I'm not sure this really answers the question which was after a single word to describe “family nicknames”. Oct 6, 2020 at 13:33
  • And OP has obviously considered the descriptor 'informal': they use it. Oct 6, 2020 at 13:43
  • OP stated a word or short phrase to describe.
    – alrausch
    Oct 6, 2020 at 15:21

Relational Colloquialisms

This is based on how we define & use the term 'colloquial' - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colloquialism

  • 2
    This isn't an accepted term, not answering 'What is this set called?' Zero hits on Google: not even a loose collocation. Oct 6, 2020 at 18:59

terms of endearment (also includes sweetie-pie, cupcake, turtledove and the like)

  • 2
    I think that's not what is being asked. Mum, Dad, Nan, Pops are not 'terms of endearment'.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:01
  • 2
    Terms of endearment not limited to enamorment, although many of the first examples you will see in dictionaries are of that nature. The term however is broader in that it covers all those that endear us or are dear to us.
    – James
    Oct 18, 2017 at 21:09
  • Also includes those phrases as in loving memory, loving father, beloved daughter etc on tombstones. (Although more accurately "endearments".)
    – James
    Oct 18, 2017 at 21:12

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