“La familia lo es todo.” (“Family is everything.”)
If you’re part of a Spanish family, you’ve probably heard this proverb. Many, many times.
It’s just a point that’s hammered home—en casa (at home).
And when something’s that important, it’s almost impossible to avoid the topic in conversation.
Believe me, I know! Being a part of, friends with or even just casual neighbors with a Spanish family means that there’ll be lots of references to and conversations with family members.
And then there are the texts. And phone calls. Don’t even get me started on the dinner invitations…
The point is, Spanish family words are important to know if you’re learning the language.
Even if you’re not planning on taking the plunge into the midst of a Spanish family (one way or another), your language program will benefit from these vocabulary words and phrases.
Before long, you’ll be using them in conversations and acting like you were born into a Spanish family!
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get those important family words down!
The Importance of Family (and Family Words) in Spanish
The dynamics of the Spanish family might differ from what you’re used to. Family, as I said, is extremely important. In fact, Studies show that familism, the concept of family, is central to the culture. So family structure in Spanish-speaking communities is a key part of their lives—and language.
Spanish families are typically large and homes are filled with lots of people fostering warm, close relationships. From personal experience, I have to admit there’s so much caring and concern that everyone is in everyone else’s business—but in a good way!
Traditionally, the close-knit Spanish family unit socializes together. With so many relatives around, it makes sense to do so, doesn’t it? I know I had playmates galore when I was a kid—and they were all within calling distance!
Children are especially important in the Hispanic culture and are included in social events, even weddings. There usually isn’t a “kids’ table,” either: Children and adults sit and talk together, and if a little one gets cranky there are a lot of adults willing to take a turn at rocking the baby!
27 Family Words in Spanish to Make You Feel Right at Home
You might be going to a friend’s house for a party or picking up your date for the first time. Or if you’ve enrolled in an immersion course and are staying with a host family, you might be gearing up to meet them.
Whatever the case, if you’re going to conocer a la familia (to meet the family) you’ll need to get to know the cast of characters.
To get a better understanding of Spanish family words, we recommend hearing them in action. And if you can’t visit a Spanish-speaking country, then bring the immersion to you with FluentU!
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. If you’re looking for a method to familiarize yourself with Spanish as well as deepen your knowledge of the culture, FluentU is the best way to go!
Since there’s a very good possibility you’ll be faced with an extended family, we’ll cover every member below. We’ve also included some example sentences every couple of words so you can see them in action!
Remember: Generally, noun plurals are formed by adding -as to reference that a group is all female and -os to indicate either all males or a mix of males and females. We’ve included some plural male forms, but if you’re referring to a group of female family members, don’t forget to change that ending or you might risk offending someone!
La Familia (The Family):
Abuela — Grandmother
Abuelo — Grandfather
Abuelos — Grandparents
Esta es mi abuela y este es mi abuelo. (This is my grandmother and this is my grandfather.)
Madre — Mother
Padre — Father
Padres — Parents
Me gustaría presentarte a mis padres. (I’d like to introduce you to my parents.)
Hermana — Sister
Esa es mi hermana mayor. (That’s my older sister.)
Hermano — Brother
Juan es mi hermano. (Juan is my brother.)
Hermanos — Siblings
No tengo ni hermanos ni hermanas. (I don’t have brothers or sisters.)
Hija — Daughter
Tengo dos hermosas hijas. (I have two beautiful daughters.)
Hijo — Son
Mi esposo y yo tenemos tres hijos. (My husband and I have three sons/children. [Remember that the -os ending can indicate either an all male or mixed-gender group!])
Niño — Child
El niño juega fútbol. (The child plays soccer.)
Tía — Aunt
Tío — Uncle
Mi tía y mi tío tienen vacas. (My aunt and uncle have cows.)
Prima — Cousin (female)
Mi prima es la única en la familia con el pelo rojo. (My cousin’s the only one in the family with red hair.)
Primo — Cousin (male)
Primos — Cousins
¡Hay tantos primos en mi familia que no puedo contarlos a todos! (There are so many cousins in my family, I can’t count them all!)
Sobrina — Niece
Sobrino — Nephew
A su sobrina y su sobrino les gusta el helado. (Her niece and nephew like ice cream.)
Novia — Girlfriend
¡Su novia no se ve feliz! (His girlfriend doesn’t look happy!)
Novio — Boyfriend
El novio de mi prima es muy guapo. (My cousin’s boyfriend is very handsome.)
Esposa — Wife
Ella es la segunda esposa de mi tío. (She’s my uncle’s second wife.)
Esposo — Husband
Este es mi esposo. (This is my husband.)
Suegra — Mother-in-law
Su suegra es muy amable. (His mother-in-law is very nice.)
Suegro — Father-in-law
Pero su suegro es malhumorado. (But his father-in-law is grouchy.)
Cuñada — Sister-in-law
Cuñado — Brother-in-law
Tengo una cuñada y un cuñado. (I have one sister-in-law and one brother-in-law.)
How to Describe Family Members with Flair
Sometimes, introductions come with colorful descriptions. These make the getting-to-know you side of things muy interesante (very interesting).
1. Adjectives must agree in gender with the nouns they modify (masculine or feminine). This means you need to change an adjective to its feminine form to describe a feminine noun (usually by changing a final -o to -a)—and vice versa.
2. Adjectives must agree in number with the noun they modify (singular or plural). Remember our note earlier: If a word ends in -o or -a, these change to -os or -as in the plural form. Just add -s for other vowel endings, or -es for consonants.
3. Adjectives usually follow the nouns they modify. There are a few exceptions to that rule (we’ll explore this in more depth below).
Adjectives following a noun indicate a quality that’s thought to be unique to that particular noun in the situation being described. For example, tía delgada (slender aunt) is constructed this way because, let’s face it, not all aunts are slender.
Adjectives preceding nouns show that the quality being described is something that’s naturally expected of the noun. For example, in el dulce azúcar (the sweet sugar), dulce (sweet) comes before azúcar (sugar) because we expect sugar to be sweet.
Now to the fun part: Let’s add some descriptions and explanations to family members! We’ve highlighted the adjectives so you can see how they modify the family words you learned above:
Mi hermana graciosa está aquí. (My funny sister is here.)
Este es mi sabio abuelo. (This is my wise grandfather.)
Mi hermano es adoptado. (My brother’s adopted.)
Ese es el tío hablador. (That’s the talkative uncle.)
¡Ella es la tía loca! (She’s the crazy aunt!)
Mi prima embarazada está allí. (My pregnant cousin is over there.)
How you describe your family members is up to you. The possibilities are endless! Just keep the simple grammar rules in your head and you’ll be introducing and describing your family in some, ah, unique ways, I’m sure!
“Familia… donde comienza la vida y el amor nunca termina.” (“Family… where life begins and love never ends.”)
Spanish families are amazing. And yes, I’m still speaking from first-hand knowledge!
They can be loving, loud, huge, entertaining and, sometimes, overwhelming. The mix of aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, young and old—often under one big, bursting roof—provides the basis for Spanish life.
I promise that if you’re fortunate enough to be pulled into one, it’ll be a wonderful experience. Even if the family you’re adopted into is a host family during an immersive program, you’re in for a great time.
Enjoy the food, laughter, love—and family!
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