SweGGate StarGuide:Facts Relations expressions

How to Express Family Relations

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The English-speaking practice to express family relations has a few shortcomings.
The most obvious one is in the "grandfather" type of expression where you cannot tell whether this refers to your mother's father or your father's father. Have you thought of that you have 16 "great-great-great-grandfathers" ? How can the reader know which one you refer to ?
Another, similar, problem is built into the expression "aunt" and "uncle".
English language uses the prefixes "paternal" (for father's) and "maternal" (for mother's). This makes the expression exact but becomes very long and cumbersome already after a few generations (just think of "my paternal grandfather's maternal aunt").

Swedish practice has another system which is very simple in structure using only a six words.

far father syster sister
mor mother bror brother
son son dotter daughter

When it comes to cousins etc the Swedish practice is just as confusing as the "English" and offers no advantage.


  1. Join the above words together left-to-right from current person to the older ancestor, grouped two-by-two.
  2. When writing unabridged text insert a possessive "s" after every second generation starting at the second generation, i.e. "group by two"
    e.g. farmors morfars mor, sondotters son.
  3. When adding "syster" to "far" or "mor" abridge it to "ster" and drop the ending "r" in "far" / "mor",
    e.g. far + syster = faster, mor + syster = moster. bror is added "as-is", e.g. farbror, morbror..

Abridged notation

  1. Abridge far to "f", mor to "m", son to "s" and dotter to "d". Syster and bror are never abridged.
  2. Examples: ffm = farfars mor =father's father's mother.
    fm moster
    = farmors moster = father's mother's mother's sister.
    ssd = sonsons dotter = son's son's daughter


It would both simplify and increase clarity, avoiding misunderstandings and unnecessary "please clarify"-messages if we could adopt this practice on the Sweden message boards and mailing lists.


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Last updated by F Hae 2005-06-16 14:03 Fredrik Haeffner, 2001-3