John Walker's Electronic House

Collecting Collective Nouns

by on Sep.20, 2008, under The Rest

It has come to the attention of comrade Kim and me that there is a woeful gap in the English language. We have plural nouns for most family relations, but for the connection between someone and their sibling’s children.

See, “siblings”, “children”, all taken care of. Parents, grandparents, cousins, all well and good. So what has happened to aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews? I’ve got a niece and a nephew, but I’m a busy man, and I don’t have time to refer to both. I need a word to collect the two together in my modern, hectic lifestyle. And I need a word to allow me to stand together with my female counterparts.

We’re halfway there. The collective noun for niece/nephew is now ready to be unveiled. Trumpets please:


“Too much like nibblings,” suggests Kim.

“Not enough like nibblings!” I reply. And it is decided.

But there has yet to be progress on the aunt/uncle front. For that, I call for your help, mysterious hundred or so people who read this. It doesn’t have to be an elegant and catchy portmanteau like my genius offering above. But it has to be perfect. Quickly now, there’s a language to improve.

13 Comments for this entry

  • Wordking

    What happened to just sticking an “s” on the end of things?

    “Newphews”. See! It worked that time.

  • botherer

    That doesn’t *quite* include “nieces” there, does it? Nor indeed the more familiar spelling of “nephew”.

    Good try “Wordking”. Think that’s a throne you should probably abdicate.

    (Although you might have invented a word for someone who has lots of nephews, and wants to refer to the most recent).

  • Steve W

    Interesting. Reminded me of this, which I found when someone asked me the exact same question not so long ago:

    “The word sibling comes from Old English, and just means related by blood. I suggest taking the parental ‘p’ to replace the ‘s’, so aunts and uncles are ‘piblings’. Following the pattern, nephews and nieces become ‘niblings’, a nice word that describes what they do to their piblings’ bank balances at Christmas and birthdays.”

    So, “piblings” then. Failing that, steal one from another language.

  • km

    Wow, you all work quickly!

    …now, how about the financial issues of the world? :)

  • The Poisoned Sponge

    I think the problem presented here is that ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ are such radically different words. They share ‘un’ in common, but that’s not really enough to base a word off, unless it’s ‘undlings’ or somesuch. But then the ‘ling’ suggests inferiority, which your uncle and aunt usually aren’t (unless you’re in one of those families) So perhaps ‘undlers’? I’m not really any good at this.

  • Del Boy



  • Iain "DDude" Dawson

    This may well get shot down, but aunts and uncles are the siblings of one of your parents, and as such I would suggest – grand-siblings.

    Much like grand-parent is your parents parent, grand-siblings for your parents siblings. Sound good?

  • NM

    For some reason, Latin gets very specific about aunts and uncles. For example, it has a word for one’s great-great-great aunt on your mother’s side: abmatertera.

    There are a number of words for different uncles too, so that you can always have one word which pin-points the exact uncle relation. But you could take one of these words and generalise it out, so one avunculus, many avunculi. Since the English word avuncular comes from this, people will know what you mean. It should really be male, but it’ll do for both in your New World.

  • The Poisoned Sponge

    A revision on my current idea, upon further nudging I think ‘Untlers’ is better than ‘Undlers’.

  • Melissa Givens

    You share my pain. Sigh. I guess I’ll use niblings until I find something better!