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Family Relationships

My friend is trying to find out what is needed to apply for a work visa in Canada. You get extra points for having a relative with citizenship. However, we’re confused about whether his particular family relationship counts.

I’ll quote the text:

Family in Canada (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, niece, nephew, child or grandchild, spouse or common-law partner who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident living in Canada)

In our language, there is a separate word for mother’s sister’s son, but is there a word for that in English, apart from cousin and relative? Could we unambiguously conclude that he’s not eligible for extra points based on the quote above?

  • 3
    It could be noteworthy that to get from you to any of the relatives in that list takes a maximum of two steps in the family tree (eg you, up to mother then across to her sister = your aunt), whereas to get to a cousin takes three (you, up to mother, across to aunt and down to cousin).
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 4 '12 at 14:22
  • See also Paucity of kinship terms in English
    – Mitch
    Oct 4 '12 at 16:25
  • @AndrewLeach: The definition of "step" depends on the culture. You consider "up to mother" and "across to sister" to be single steps, but not "up to aunt"; but some Australian Aboriginal cultures don't distinguish "up to mother" from "up to maternal aunt", and it wouldn't surprise me if some cultures didn't allow a general "across to sister", only an "across to same-gender sibling" (such that "across to opposite-gender sibling" would require two steps, "up to parent" + "down to child").
    – ruakh
    Oct 4 '12 at 18:44
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this. It seems quite clear that no matter whether there's a word for this particular type of cousin, it is NOT "parent", "grandparent", "aunt", "uncle", "sister", "brother", "niece", "nephew", "child", "grandchild", "spouse" or "common-law partner". You can look up each of these terms if you don't know what they mean, and conclude that, quite unambiguously, your friend's cousin is NOT on this list.
    – user16269
    Oct 4 '12 at 20:03
  • @Andrew Leach, that is a good point.
    – enedene
    Oct 5 '12 at 8:58

Yes, that is unambiguous: a mother's sister's son is a (first) cousin, which is not mentioned in that list.


Cousin is the standard term in American English for the descendants of your parent's sibling. The child of your parent's sibling is your first cousin. The grandchild of your parent's sibling is your first cousin once removed.

To indicate that the cousin is related through your mother, you can use the term maternal cousin.

While I have never heard the term used, you could indicate that the maternal relationship is through her sister by adding sororal, as in maternal sororal cousin.

In English, we do not have a gender specific reference for cousin (in contrast the the French cousin/cousine. You could add male as in maternal sororal male cousin.

Obviously this is not a single word descriptor.

This relationship does not seem to be listed in the quoted law, but that is a legal question rather than a language issue.

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