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What’s the Difference Between Nephew and Niece? (Explained)

What’s the Difference Between Nephew and Niece? (Explained)

Their difference is of gender! A nephew is a male, while a niece is a female. You call this to your siblings’ children or could be your cousins’ children.

It’s important to understand relationships. While you can call anyone your niece or nephew it’s still essential to know the proper persons to use it for.

Some people find it challenging to determine which of the two should be used. This is probably because they almost sound the same. I’ll help you with your confusion. Let’s get to it!

What is a Family?

A family is a social group that consists of parents and their children. Basically, a family is a bunch of people that descend from the same ancestral group and are people who live together to make up what is called a “household.”

People might’ve said to you before that “oh, you resemble your mother’s side of the family” or your father’s side of the family. This is because you share the same genes, so you have characteristics and features pretty similar to your family.

There are many types of families, including the two major ones, the Nuclear family and the Extended family. Now the nuclear family is an immediate family unit. This close family includes partners and their children.

On the other hand, the extended family includes everybody else, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They could be living in the same household as you or just living nearby.

To officially define “family,” one could say it’s a group of bloodlines and legal relationships. Sometimes family could include your other members like your step-parents, adoptive parent, siblings, or even just your friends. But in the end, it’s your decision on who you consider your family!

How Many Make a Family?

There’s no limit. It solely depends on your family. As said earlier, family is defined as a group of people made up of partners, children, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Extended family can also include your sibling’s children, nieces, and nephews. They are considered as much a part of the family as anybody else.

Here’s a table summarizing the different levels of family relationships:

Levels Links
First-degreeParents and children, brothers and sisters
Second-degreeGrandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews
Third-degreeGreat-grandparents and their siblings.
Fourth degreeFirst cousin
This would help you check your family degree.

Moreover, instead of just your blood and legal relationships, many other people are seen or considered as family. When a person becomes an adult and is mature enough to build relationships with others, then it is for them to decide who constitutes a family to them.

Many people build multiple types of connections with others and spend a lot of time and energy to honor their relationships. These relationships are built on trust, loyalty, and love. These characteristics are widespread between family members as well. So why don’t we consider the other relationships as familial too?

“Family is only blood” is a statement we’ve all heard before. The concept of “family” has become a social construct. This idea is accepted and followed by people all over the world.

However, when people nurture their relationships and put effort, it’s their choice who is family to them. I believe there’s nothing wrong with giving the family’s title to someone else either.

Set of people enjoying by the beach.
Sometimes even friends are considered family due to the deep connections.

Who is Called a Cousin?

A cousin is a son or a daughter of an uncle or aunt. There are instances wherein some get’s confused with a cousin, nephew, and niece.

Cousins are related to you as descendants in a diverging line from a known common ancestor, like one’s grandparents, great grandparents, or father’s and mother’s siblings. Another thing with cousins is that you can call it for male or female.

These ancestors are generally two generations away. For example, you and your siblings are not cousins because your parents are only one generation away from you.

Even though they are considered blood relationships, they are not your immediate family but can be a part of your extended family.

Family offers support, security, and unconditional love. They will always take care of you and help you become the best version of yourself.

Cousins tend to support you and your life decisions, they become a close part of you. They are someone you may have grown up with. They also share unlimited love, laughter, and a feeling of belonging.

Who is Your Nephew and Niece?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, “nephew” is a male. He is the son of your sibling, while a “niece” is a female. She is the daughter of your sibling.

The difference between the two is mere of gender. It’s the same as calling a male an uncle and a female an aunt. You are typically considered an aunt or an uncle to them. While mom, dad, and siblings are regarded as immediate family, a nephew or a niece is part of your extended family because they are children of a sibling.

According to the traditional kinship system used in English-speaking countries, a niece or nephew is part of your kin because they’re a sibling’s child. In the same way, both aunt/uncle and niece/nephew are separated by two generations and are examples of second-degree relationships.

They are 25% related if they are considered your blood.

Why are They Called Niece and Nephew?

Initially, both niece and nephew meant “grandchild” but were then narrowed to their current meaning in the 1600s.

The term “niece” ultimately comes from the Latin word “Neptis,” which means “granddaughter.” Whereas the time “nephew” comes from the Latin word “Nepos,” which translates to “grand-son.” However, in English, the terms niece and nephew mean daughter and son of a sibling instead of grandchildren.

What Do You Call Your Nieces and Nephews?

Generally, nieces and nephews are popularly known as “niblings.”

The term Nibling is probably the most general term to form niece and nephew alike. This term was relatively obscure for several decades but has recently revived in the past few years as the world keeps evolving, check out this video to know more about it.

Nibling is modeled on the term sibling, with the addition of N instead of S, taken from Nephew and Niece.

There isn’t a single standard term to refer to both nephew and niece at once. We can refer to mom and dad as our parents, brothers, and sisters as our siblings, and grandpa and grandma as our grandparents.

Then why not a mutual term for nieces and nephews too? They provide one with so much support and love and should be equally appreciated.

Therefore, Samuel Martin, a linguist, coined this gender-neutral term- nibling- in the 1950s. This term can be used to refer to these essential relatives when we’re talking about both or more than two.

Moreover, as the world evolves, it’s become more sensitive towards people and how they define their identity. Consequently, people are now becoming more aware of those around them who don’t confine to one gender and are non-binary. Then how must we address them if they don’t conform to a specific gender?

This term is an excellent example of a gender-neutral and gender-inclusive language that makes it easier to refer to and address relatives that we care about- regardless of their gender.

Other terms for niece and nephew that are non-binary and gender-inclusive include niephling, niephew, chibling, and sibkid. These are combinations of the terms niece, nephew, and sibling.

Who is Closer, a First Cousin or a Nephew?

You’re closer blood relative to a niece and a nephew than a first cousin. But why is it like that? This is because a niece or a nephew is the offspring of a sibling. They would share the genes of both your parents (their grandparents) and additionally one other, which is your sibling’s partner.

On the other hand, a first cousin is the product of only one of your parent sibling and their partner. So if we see it in reverse from a niece or nephew’s perspective, then you as an aunt are genetically closer to them than the first cousin you will produce as the first cousin would have diluted bloodline because of your unrelated spouse.

Therefore, it is more likely that a niece or nephew will share a gene with you as an aunt or an uncle. You share 25% of your DNA with your nieces and nephews, but you only share 12.5% of DNA with your first cousins.

Of course, these numbers are just an average across the large population and can vary, but you can find out the actual percentage through a DNA test only.

What Do I Call my Niece’s Son?

Your nibling’s child will be a grand-nephew or a grand-niece. If your niece or nephew has a child, you’ll be the “grandaunt.”

This is because the nephew’s parents will be the grandparents, so their siblings will also branch out from this title. They become aunts and uncles. Meanwhile, you’ll be a grandaunt granduncle.

Some people add “grand” while others add “great.” However, they both mean the same thing, and it is a preference for you to decide. That’s not complicated at all!

Two old woman with children.
Grandmother and aunt look happy together with their nieces.

Final Thoughts

I see no reason for you to get confused between the two. Not unless, if English is not your first language. Nephew and niece refer to the same familial relationships, the child of one’s sibling.

Niece is used for a female (sibling’s daughter). Just remember that girls are much nicer than boys. This would make you remember that niece stands for girls, while the nephew is the term for a male (sibling’s son),

They are just one generational down from you, and in some cultures, it is widespread to call a child of a cousin, niece, or nephew. Nevertheless, nieces and nephews are generally considered a part of one’s extended family and a second-degree relationship.

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A short web story about these differences can be found here.