Does it seem odd that your boyfriend/fiance/friend seems to have 2,5,11,20… an ever-expanding number of Aunts? Either his parents should have had their own reality show (19 Kids And Counting Indian-style) or you’re missing something.
In Indian culture (and a few others), any woman about 20 years older than you is your “Auntie”. This applies to neighbors, your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, etc. The same goes for “Uncle”. But BEWARE – notice I said, around 20 years older… like every culture on the planet, no woman wants to be called “old”, so watch out for the neighbor who’s only 10 years older… One rule of thumb I’ve heard: “If they have grey hair, they’re an Auntie or an Uncle.” But tread lightly!
There’s a twist though: you never call your actual Aunt – “Auntie.” There are a particular set of names just for your blood relatives. As far as I know, all of the Indian subcultures put an emphasis on birth order. Therefore, there are different names for older brother, than younger brother. There are also specific names for uncles who are older than your father and for brothers who are younger. I didn’t get started on learning the long list of titles until way too late, now I am about to go to India to meet them all. And from the many “Do you know who I am?” challenges I got at the wedding, I have a feeling I will be put to the test.
Let’s learn together! Feel free to email me at samosasandsunshine@gmail[dot]com with any corrections or variations you encounter!
**Note: The title can be said solo or comes after the name (i.g. Sunshine Auntie, Matt Uncle, Geeta Auntie etc.)
Catch-all for Adult Woman – Auntie or Mami
Any older Adult Man – Uncle or Mama
Grandmother – Pati
Grandfather – Thatha
Mother – Amma
Father – Appa
Father’s older sisters – Peri Amma (means Big Amma)
Father’s older sister’s husband- Athimber
Father’s older brothers – Peri Appa (means Big Appa)
Father’s older brother’s wife – Peri Amma
Father’s younger brothers – Chitha Appa (means Little Appa)
Father’s younger brother’s wife – Chithi
Father’s younger sisters – Athai
Father’s younger sister’s husband- Athimber
Mom’s brothers – Mama
Mom’s brother’s wife – Mami or Peri Appa
Mom’s older sister – Mami or Peri Amma
Mom’s younger sister – Chithi
Mom’s younger sister’s husband – Chitappa
Older Brother/Older Male Cousins- Anna (This is not Anna from Frozen. This is a long A. Ahn-na)
Sister/Older Female Cousins – Akka
Younger Brother – ? Call him by his first name
Husband’s Older Brother – Anna
Husband’s Older Brother’s Wife – Manni
Husband’s Younger Brother – Refer to him as Machiner, but address him by his name because he’s younger
Husband’s Younger Brother’s Wife – Refer to her as Machini, but address her by her name
Mother-in-Law – Mamiar (But in my case, I’ll be calling her what my husband called her – Mumi)
Father-in-Law – Mamanar (Same here – I’ll call him Papa because we want to feel closer)
Son-in-Law – Maple
Daughter-in-Law – ?
Brother-in-Law – Athimber
**Check out how female names end in “i” and male names end in “A” – that will throw you for a while.
You may hear these more often since Hindi is more well known. For example, my husband uses mostly Tamil terminology, but still calls his father PAPA instead of APPA
Mother – Maa
Father – Papa
Daughter – Beti
Son – Beta
Older Sister – Didi
Older Brother – Bhai
Younger Brother – Bhaiyya
Husband’s Older Brother – Jetji
Husband’s Older Brother’s Wife – Jetanhi
Husband’s Younger Brother – Devar
Husband’s Younger Brother’s Wife – Devarani
Mother-in-Law – Saas
Father-in-Law – Sasur
Daughter-in-Law – Bahu
Son-in-Law – Damaad
This is all good in theory, but I have a feeling it’s flexible in real life. For example, my husband has heard his younger brother call him “Anna” a total of 0 times in his life. Hopefully, I can update this post as I encounter each one of these people in person.
Check back next week for the beginning of my Wedding-specific advice. Post 1 will be One Wedding or Two? which will dive into the options on how to create the dream wedding experience that leave you and your husband… and your families satisfied. I’ll go into our own very difficult decision and a post-mortem on how it turned out.
Shortly after, we’ll get into – You’re Inviting Who? A guide on what to expect when working out the guest list for your wedding(s).
As always, please email your own experiences to samosasandsunshine@gmail[dot]com to get in on the action.