Family words in Finnish

Words for family members and other relatives in Finnish.

Finnish (suomi) English Notes
perhe family  
vanhemmat parents Singular form vanhempi means "older" and "the elder"
äiti mother  
isä father  
lapsi child  
poika boy / son Finnish boy (poika) is the same as son (poika) and that someone is someone's son has to be red from the context
tytär daughter  
sisarus sibling Genderless way to say to have brother(s) and/or sister(s)
veli brother  
sisko/sisar sister Sisar less used as it can be confused with genderless sisarus
serkku cousin  
-orpana cousin Cousin from your mother's side, rarely used
-nepas cousin Cousin from your father's side, rarely used
pikkuserkku second cousin What cousins' childs are to each others.
-sokeriserkku third cousin Literally "sugar cousin" and "quarter cousin". This is what cousins' grandchildren are to others
-varttiserkku third cousin  
-sirpaleserkku fourth cousin Literally "fragment cousin". This is what cousin's great grandchildren are to each others
suvunsuku distant relative Literally means "family's family" or even "extended family's family" and is used of those who are distantly relative
setä father's brother  
eno mother's brother  
täti aunt  
veljenpoika nephew Literally "brother's son"
-sisarenpoika nephew Literally "sister's son". Siskonpoika is also possible variation as sisaren- can be mixed to the next...
-sisarenpoika sibling's son Can be used if you have more siblings and you are pointing like in a family party, that "that is one of my siblings' son" and not really knowing is it your brother's or sister's son, or just when you don't want to say if he is your brother's or sister's son, or even when you have only one sibling so the fact who's son he is can't be missed.
sisarentytär niece Literally "sister's daughter". Siskontyttö is also used which means literally "sister's girl" also siskontytär "sister's daughter" as this too can be confused with previous.
-veljentytär niece Literally means "brother's daughter"
-sisarentytär sibling's daughter Again can be used as genderless way to say "one of my siblings' daughter" just like in sibling's son above.
isovanhemmat grandparents Singular is not really used
isoäiti grandmother Some families make a difference of father's and mother's parents by using synonymes like mummu, mummo, mummi, mamma etc. that all mean "grandmother". They can say that their mother's mother is mummi and father's mother mummo. Same applies to grandfather, only then is used words like vaari, ukki, ukko, äijjä, äijji, pappa etc. which all mean "grandfather" respectively.1
isoisä grandfather
isoisoäiti great grandmother Basicly just add iso- (big) in front of the word and you get one generation backwards every time.
isoisoisä great grandfather
lapsenlapsi grandchild  
pojanpoika son's son  
tyttärenpoika2 daughter's son  
pojantytär son's daughter  
tyttärentytär daughter's daughter  
lapsenlapsenlapsi great grandchild Usually we don't separate genders beyond two generations so this literally means "child's child's child".
Relatives from marriage
käly sister-in-law Spouse's sister, brother's wife or spouse's brother's wife
lanko (suoveri) brother-in-law Spouse's brother, sister's husband or spouse's sister's husband. Older name suoveri "swampblood" isn't really used nowadays
vävy son-in-law Daughter's husband. Naming kotivävy "home son-in-law" is used for a son-in-law that lives in his wife's home.
miniä daughter-in-law Son's wife
appivanhemmat parents-in-law Used when speaking of your spouse's parents.
appi father-in-law  
anoppi mother-in-law  
puoliso spouse  
(avio)mies husband Note, mies means "man" so if it is not known that we are talking about someone's husband, it is correct to use avio- in front of it.
vaimo wife  
Names used in folk-poetry
kyty brother-in-law Husband's brother (only!)
nato sister-in-law Husband's siter (only!)
näälämies brother-in-law Spouse's brother, sister's husband or spouse's sister's husband


These notes are written by Karri Anttila from his perspective, so "I" and "my" refer to Karri.

These notes are mainly my thoughts and most likely have a strong influence from the Häme dialect, and therefore cannot be read as a grammar/facts. A speaker from the Savo dialect area would say many things differently.

1. I have a friend who calls his grandfather ukki and his grandmother's (still-living!) father vaari making a difference between these two gentlemen. My father's mother is mummu (to me) and my mother's mother was mummo, though my parents were originally from different dialect areas so the difference is understandable.

This is mostly family habit or way of speaking and also a wish from grandparents, my grandmother couldn't stand mamma as she used to call her mother that way, which is why I call my grandmother mummo and then again her mother to me is [her first name + mummu]. So my grandmother's mother (from father's side) to me is Silja-mummu and my mother's grandmother is Claudia-mummo (again, she is from a different dialect area so we have mumm- body with -o and not -u).

Very few people actually use isoäiti/isoisä when speaking of their grandparents but use other words that are considered as synonyms. De jure there is no difference between mother's mother and father's mother as a word but it seems that usually the difference appears at last when the grandchild learns to speak.

2. In my experience the word tytär (daughter) is usually turned into tyttö (girl) when combined with other words, especially when in the genetive form. For example:

This happens to happen with "sister" sisko/sisar too. For example:

I think all of these versions can be genuinely used in formal or in common speech/text.

There are also tons of different dialect and loan words for sister/girl in Finnish that can't be used in formal text but can be used in speech. In my family we usually call sisters (anyone who has a sister) as likka which is a loan word from Swedish flicka and means, again, "girl". Therefore if my sister would have a son, for example, I would call him likanpoika which would basically be "girl's son".

Variants like the ones above are stunning.

Information provided by Karri Anttila

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