Family Bonds: How to Talk About ‘Family’ in Chinese

Family is important, and it impacts everyone in their childhood and adulthood. Whether in good or bad times, families can always give us love and support to go a long way. Many research shows the importance of family time, which can enhance or worsen one’s mental health. Today, we’re going to learn about the Chinese sayings of family members. Let’s get rolling! 

Introduction to “Family” in Chinese 

If you want to say “This is my family,” there are a few words you can use, which are very similar. Here is some vocabulary for you:

  • 家 (jiā), which can also mean “home”
  • 家人 (jiā rén), which means family members literally
  • 家庭 (jiā tíng), which means family

In the Chinese culture, it is disrespectful to call elders by their names directly. Chinese people usually call the older people by the family terms. Keep on reading for more interesting Chinese words about family!

family eating at the table

Parents in Chinese

Parents are our immediate family who gives us life in this new world. Dad – 爸爸 (bà ba) and mom –  妈妈(mā ma) are almost the first few words a baby taught to speak. After all, parents have been our dearest people in touch since we were born. 

EnglishChinese & Pinyin
Father父亲 (fù qīn)
爸爸 (bà ba)
Mother母亲 (mǔ qīn)
妈妈 (mā ma)
Parents父母 (fù mǔ)
爸妈 (bà mā)

In Chinese, there is a formal and a casual way to address our parents. A more formal word “father” is called 父亲 (fù qīn), and if you want it more casual, you can use dad – 爸爸 (bà ba).  Similarly, you can address your mother as 母亲 (mǔ qīn) or mom – 妈妈 (mā ma). Some people call their parents simply by 爸 (bà) or 妈 (mā). 

If you want to say parents, you can easily combine these words. Both 父母 (fù mǔ) and 爸妈 (bàmā) are understandable by Chinese people.

Notice that there are repetitive characters? In fact, many family terms in Chinese come in two same characters, and they are easy to learn! 

Siblings in Chinese

Siblings are the people we grew up together in the same house. They are our closest friends, and no other relationship can beat the one with our siblings.

As opposed to English, the older and younger siblings are addressed in different terms. They are relatively easy to learn, though. You will notice that these family terms come in repetitive words too! 

EnglishChinese & Pinyin
哥哥 (gē ge)
弟弟 (dì dì)
姐姐 (jiě jie)
妹妹mèi mei)
Siblings兄弟姐妹 (xiōng dì jiě mèi)

Interestingly, “siblings” is called 兄弟姐妹 (xiōng dì jiě mèi) in Chinese. It literally combines all characters of brothers and sisters, except the first word comes in 兄(xiōng) instead of 哥(gē). Why is it so?

In Chinese, the formal way of saying “brothers” is 兄弟(xiōng dì). You can use it to address either 哥哥 (gē ge) or 弟弟(dì dì). On the other hand, 姐妹 (jiě mèi) is the most common way we use to address “sisters.” That’s why it is called 兄弟姐妹 (xiōng dì jiě mèi) for siblings.  

The fun fact is that Chinese people also use 兄弟(xiōng dì) to call buddies or homies who have no biological relations. Similarly, they call their female best friends 姐妹 (jiě mèi).

Spouse and Children in Chinese

Before starting a new family, it is crucial to learn some vocabulary to address your family members. Let’s take a look:

EnglishChinese & PinYin
Husband丈夫 (zhàng fū)
先生 (xiān shēng)
老公 ( lǎo gōng)
Wife妻子 (qī zi)
太太 (tài tài) 
老婆 (lǎo pó)
Spouse配偶 (pèi ǒu)
爱人 (ài rén)
Son儿子 (ér zi)
Daughter女儿 (nǚ’ér)
Children儿女 (érnǚ)
子女 (Zǐ nǚ)
孩子 (hái zi)

There are a few ways to address your husband or wife formally. The term 丈夫 (zhàng fū) – husband is usually used along with 妻子  (qī zi) – wife. Besides, you can also use the formal terms, 先生 (xiān shēng) for husband and 太太 (tài tài) for the wife. 

If you are on a more casual occasion, you can use the terms 老公 (lǎo gōng) – husband and 老婆 (lǎo pó) – wife. These terms refer to your spouse, who you will live long and get old together, thus the character 老(lǎo) – old. 

The Chinese words son – 儿子 (ér zi) and daughter – 女儿 (nǚ’ér) are easier to read and write. It could be tricky to pronounce 女 (nǚ), so don’t rush and practice it repeatedly. To say children, you can combine the words to form 儿女 (érnǚ) or 子女 (zǐ nǚ). Alternatively, 孩子 (hái zi) is also used to mean children in Chinese. 

group of people beside coffee table

It could be a bit challenging for this part. Be patient because these words are vital for you to address your dearest people! Alternatively, you can subscribe to Maayot for more daily engaging stories to learn Chinese!

Grandparents in Chinese

Some call grandparents our extended family where we only see them on family reunions or holidays. In English, we use the same words for paternal and maternal relations. For instance, “grandpa” is used for both father’s father and mother’s father. Also, our father’s mother and mother’s mother are both called “grandma.”

However, it is not the same in Chinese culture. There is a difference in the way we call our paternal or maternal grandparents. Let’s check it out.

EnglishChinese & PinYin
爷爷 (yé ye)
祖父 (zǔ fù)
奶奶 (nǎi nai)
祖母 (zǔ mǔ)
外公 (wài gōng)
老爷 (lǎo ye)
外婆 (wài pó) 
姥姥 (lǎo lao)
Grandparents祖父母 (zǔ fù mǔ)

Chinese tradition regards paternal relatives as the basic units of the social structure. We address our paternal grandfather as 祖父 (zǔ fù) in a more formal way, or you can call them 爷爷 (yé ye) too. Similarly, we use 祖母 (zǔ mǔ) or 奶奶 (nǎi nai) for our father’s mother. The formal way adds 祖(zǔ) in front of 父(fù) – father and 母 (mǔ) – mother, which 祖(zǔ) has the meaning of ancestor. 

On the other hand, Chinese culture considers relatives of mother, sister, or daughter outside the family line’s core. Thus, we use 外(wài) to address our maternal relatives, which means far and away. For our grandpa on mother’s side, we use either 外公 (wài gōng) or 老爷 (lǎo ye). The maternal grandmother is called 外婆 (wài pó) or 姥姥 (lǎo lao) in Chinese.

Finally, we use a simple word 祖父母 (zǔ fù mǔ) to address our grandparents, whether the paternal or maternal ones.


Family members are the people who give us love and support along our life journey. By learning Chinese terms to address them, it shows your respect and how much you value them. I hope this article helps you with the Chinese vocabulary about family. 


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