Bulgarian familial terminology is great!

As complicated as it is to spend time with your family, you may wish your language used a simpler terminology. Imagine a language where there is no word for “mother.” Instead, you have “woman-parent.” No brothers or sisters, just “man-sibling” and “woman-sibling.” Wouldn’t that be nice and simple? Well, as that language is to English, English is to Bulgarian.

Sorry, bit of a bait-and-switch there.

Where English uses formulas to generate new titles for family member (brother-in-law, great-aunt, aunt-on-my-mother’s-side), Bulgarian has completely independent words for each of these people, or else has no way to refer to them at all (aside from clunky English-isms like pra-lelya). This makes for a warm homey feeling , but it a…more extensive vocabulary list.

Brat=brother in the abstract sense

Bratche=younger brother

Batko=older brother (or any older boy)

Sestra=sister in the abstract sense

Sestrichka=younger sister

Kaka=older sister (or any older girl)

Bratovchet=male cousin

Bratovchetka=female cousin

Clearly, a lot of the words on this list evolved from feminine and diminutive suffixes like –ka and -che and the old genitive declension-ending -ov. So “female cousin” breaks down into “brother-‘s-small-female.” Some of these words can be suffixed themselves, like kakichka, a small big sister

Good so far? Okay, on to your parents’ generation.



Just like in English! However…

Chicho=father’s brother (or any adult man)

Lelya=father’s sister (or any adult woman)

Vuicho=mother’s brother

Tetka=mother’s sister

When those people get married, they take masculine or feminine version of the person they married in order to enter your family.

Lelincho=Lelya‘s husband (i.e. your paternal uncle-by-marriage)

Tetincho=Tetka‘s husband (maternal uncle-by-marriage)

Strina=Chicho‘s wife (paternal aunt-by-marriage)(just to keep you on your toes)

Vuina=Vuicho‘s wife (maternal aunt-by-marriage)

And finally at the top of the family (literally in our case—they live in the apartment upstairs)…

Dyado=Grandpa (or any great-uncle or any old man)

Baba=Grandma (or any great-aunt or any old woman)



This entry was posted in Language is Great! and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.