My son has a brother in law. What is he to me? I usually just call him "Uncle Mikey" when talking to my grandson.


1 Answer 1


Welcome to EL&U. Unlike some languages English is very poor in terms for relationships other than close blood relatives, and this is particularly the case for relationships by marriage. Your son, of course, has a brother-in-law called "Mikey", your grandson has an uncle called "Mikey" and you are Mikey's sister's father-in-law but there is no simple term for Mikey's relationship to you.

There is also no term (and I find this surprising given the history of alliances forged between families by marriage in the past) for your relationship to Mikey's parents who are, of course, your son's father and mother in law.

The phrase "cousin by marriage once removed" could, perhaps, be applied both to you and Mikey in relation to the other but it's clumsy and not really specific enough. When talking to your grandson you are quite right to refer to Mikey as "Uncle Mikey" because that is the relationship between them. If Mikey marries someone called Sarah you would also be correct to refer to her as "Aunt Sarah" when talking to your grandson. But the only way you can describe them to a third party is to say "My son's brother-in-law" and "My son's sister-in-law". This is another limitation of English terminology as "My sister-in-law" can refer either to your spouse's sister or to your spouse's brother's wife and when it comes to same-sex marriages it gets even more complicated.

Just enjoy your family relationships, refer to everyone by name and, if you need to explain any relationship to someone outside the family then spell it out. You'll usually only have to do that once for each person outside the family then you can refer to the relative by name.

  • Exactly what I thought, no specific word or phrase. Thanks. Jul 23 at 13:36

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