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Names of Relatives in Bangla

Family is very important to Bengalis. Large families often lived together, with many generations under one roof. Often, a young man would marry and he and his bride would continue to live in the family homestead. Such families were called "Joint families". This is becoming much less common with young people moving away to college and jobs, especially in the urban areas, forming what in Western cultures is known as the "Nuclear family."

There is, for example, no Bangla word for cousin. All cousins are called brothers or sisters with an adjective (like "paternal uncle's son") as in ও আমার মামাতো ভাই O amar mamatO bhai to describe a cousin who is your maternal uncle's son.

In Western cultures, a father's brother or mother's brother is an uncle, and a father's sister or mother's sister is an aunt. In Bangla, we have different names for siblings of our parents.

It was also considered impolite and disrespectful to use somebody's name when talking to them directly, especially one's husband or older relative. It is common to hear a wife call her husband ওগো, আমার কাছে আসবে? OgO, amar kachhe asobe? to ask her husband to come near her.

In a large family, each brother or sister was given a "placeholder" name for them to be referred to by their younger siblings. The most common were বড়দা, মেজদা, ছোড়দা boRoda, mejoda, chhORoda for the eldest, middle and youngest brother and the corresponding বড়দি, মেজদি, ছোড়দি boRodi, mejodi, chhORodi for sisters.

For the sake of completeness, I should mention that remarriages did take place usually by men whose wife had died. The prefix সৎ- sot^- means "step" in English. So you could derive a whole set of words like সৎমা, সৎবাবা, সৎদাদা, সৎভাই, সৎদিদি, সৎবোন, সৎমেয়ে, সৎছেলে sot^ma, sot^baba, sot^dada, sot^bhai, sot^didi, sot^bOn, sot^meye, sot^chhele to mean "stepmother, stepfather, stepbrother, stepbrother, stepsister, stepsister, stepdaughter and stepson" respectively.

The words for relatives' names as commonly used in West Bengal are summarized by generational markers in the list below. In Bangladesh, a few of the words are different, like abba for father and chacha for paternal uncle, but the basic pattern of naming is similar. For simplicity, I have not included Bangladesh variations in this list.

Grandparents

EnglishBangla
 maternal grandfather  দাদু dadu 
 maternal grandmother  দিদিমা didima 
 paternal grandfather  ঠাকুরদাদা Thakurodada 
 paternal grandmother  ঠাকুরমা Thakuroma 
 grandfather-in-law  দাদাশ্বশুর dadu 
 grandmother-in-law  দিদিশাশুরি didima 

Parents

EnglishBangla
 mother  মা ma 
 father  বাবা baba 
 father-in-law  শ্বশুর shwoshur 
 mother-in-law  শাশুরি shashuri 

Parents' Siblings - Mother's side

EnglishBangla
 maternal uncle  মামা mama 
 maternal aunt  মাসি masi 
 wife of maternal uncle  মামিমা mamima 
 husband of maternal aunt  মেসো mesO 

Parents' Siblings - Father's side

EnglishBangla
 paternal uncle(older than father)  জেঠা jeTha 
 paternal uncle(younger than father)  কাকা kaka 
 paternal aunt  পিসি pisi 
 wife of paternal uncle(older)  জেঠিমা jethima 
 wife of paternal uncle(younger)  কাকিমা kakima 
 husband of paternal aunt  পিসে pise 

Us-current generation

EnglishBangla
 husband  স্বামী swamI 
 husband  বর bor 
 wife  স্ত্রী strI 
 wife  বউ bou 

Siblings

EnglishBangla
 elder brother  দাদা dada 
 younger brother  ভাই bhai 
 elder sister  দিদি didi 
 younger sister  বোন bOn 
 wife of elder brother  বউদি boudi 
 wife of younger brother  ভাইবউ bhaibou 
 husband of sister  ভগিনীপতি bhoginIpoti 

Siblings-in-law

EnglishBangla
 brother of husband  ঠাকুরপো ThakuropO 
 sister of husband  ঠাকুরঝি Thakurojhi 
 brother of wife  শালা shala 
 sister of wife  শালি shali 

Cousins

EnglishBangla
 children of jeTha  জেঠতুতো দাদা/ভাই/দিদি/বোন jeThotutO dada/bhai/didi/bOn 
 children of kaka  খুড়তুতো দাদা/ভাই/দিদি/বোন khuRotutO dada/bhai/didi/bOn 
 children of pisi  পিসতুতো দাদা/ভাই/দিদি/বোন pisotuTo dada/bhai/didi/bOn 
 children of mama  মামাতো দাদা/ভাই/দিদি/বোন mamatO dada/bhai/didi/bOn 
 children of mashi  মাসতুতো দাদা/ভাই/দিদি/বোন masotutO dada/bhai/didi/bOn 

Children

EnglishBangla
 daughter  মেয়ে meye 
 son  ছেলে chhele 
 daughter-in-law  বউমা bouma 
 son-in-law  জামাই jamai 

Grandchildren

EnglishBangla
 granddaughter  নাতনি natoni 
 grandson  নাতি nati 
 husband of granddaughter  নাতজামাই natojamai 
 wife of grandson   নাতবউ natobou 

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