Making small talk is essential for learning a new language and integrating into a new country. And there’s no better way to get to know others and understand a country’s culture than by talking about family. Talking about your family in German will not only help you practice your language skills. It will also teach you about an important aspect of German culture.
From immediate relatives to step siblings and everything in between, there are many German words to describe different familial relations. But don’t worry — we have you covered! With the lists below, you can get a head start on learning and memorizing the most important German vocabulary about family.
- Immediate family
- Extended family
- Other family or household members
- Marital status
- Other words to talk about family
Immediate family members include the people you’re immediately related to — for example, your parents and siblings. Unlike in some other cultures, Germans typically only live together with their immediate family, rather than with a large group of extended family members.
|die Familie||the family|
|der Vater (formal)||the father|
|die Mutter (formal)||the mother|
|der Papa (informal)||the dad|
|die Mama (informal)||the mom|
|das Kind||the child|
|die Tochter||the daughter|
|der Sohn||the son|
|die Eltern||the parents|
|die Geschwister||the siblings|
|die Schwester||the sister|
|der Bruder||the brother|
|das Einzelkind||the only child|
|die Ehefrau||the wife|
|der Ehemann||the husband|
Of course, your family can also include extended family, such as your grandparents or in-laws. German naturally has words for these relations, as well. Notice that, as with parents, there are both formal and informal names for grandparents.
|die Großmutter (formal)||the grandmother|
|der Großvater (formal)||the grandfather|
|die Oma (informal)||the grandma|
|der Opa (informal)||the grandpa|
|die Großeltern||the grandparents|
|die Cousine||the female cousin|
|der Cousin||the male cousin|
|der Onkel||the uncle|
|die Tante||the aunt|
|die Nichte||the niece|
|der Neffe||the nephew|
|die Urgroßmutter (formal)||the great-grandmother|
|der Urgroßvater (formal)||the great-grandfather|
|die Uroma (informal)||the great-grandma|
|der Uropa (informal)||the great-grandpa|
|die Urgroßeltern||the great-grandparents|
|das Enkelkind||the grandchild|
|die Enkelin||the granddaughter|
|der Enkel||the grandson|
|der Schwager||the brother-in-law|
|die Schwägerin||the sister-in-law|
|Die Schwiegereltern||the parents-in-law|
|Die Schwiegermutter||the mother-in-law|
|Der Schwiegervater||the father-in-law|
Other family or household members
The definition of “family” continues to expand, in Germany as well as in other cultures. With this in mind, there may be other people who are considered family in German, such as step-siblings or life partners.
To help with your memorization, notice that many of these words share a similar prefix. Learning these common prefixes can come in handy whether you’re describing a life partner (prefix: Lebens-) or a step relation (prefix: Stief-).
|der Partner||the partner|
|der Lebensgefährte||the male life partner|
|die Lebensgefährtin||the female life partner|
|der Stiefvater||the stepfather|
|die Stiefmutter||the stepmother|
|die Stiefeltern||the stepparents|
|das Stiefkind||the stepchild|
|die Stieftochter||the stepdaughter|
|der Stiefsohn||the stepson|
|der Stiefbruder||the stepbrother|
|die Stiefschwester||the stepsister|
|die Patchworkfamilie||the blended family|
Especially when applying for a visa, changing tax classes or signing up for social benefits, you may need to specify your marital status. You may also need to describe which members of your family live in your household. Here’s a list of some key nouns and adjectives to get you started.
|der Familienstand||the marital status|
|der/die Alleinerziehende||the single parent|
Other words to talk about family
Now that you can name all the family members and describe their various relations, it may help to learn some typical questions to ask about the family. The following questions and answers can get you a long way in making conversation.
|Hast du Geschwister?||Do you have siblings?|
|Wie alt sind deine Eltern?||How old are your parents?|
|Hast du Cousins?||Do you have cousins?|
|Wie groß ist deine Familie?||How big is your family?|
|Ich habe zwei Geschwister: einen Bruder und eine Schwester.||I have two siblings: a brother and a sister.|
|Ich bin das jüngste/älteste Kind.||I am the youngest/oldest child.|
In times of test, family is best
When you’re moving or even just traveling abroad, you may find yourself missing your family a lot. In moments like these, sharing memories about your loved ones with new friends can help you cope. It doesn’t hurt that it also helps with practicing German. Whether you’re talking about immediate or extended family, you’ll have plenty to speak about with these vocabulary lists. Study up, and you’ll be fluent in German in no time!
Anne is a German freelance writer and communication consultant. In addition to her job, she is the founder and coach of the Dutch non-for-profit organization CLUB Coaching. Due to her work, she resides in both Germany and the Netherlands. Whenever her time is not occupied with communication in all its forms, she spends time with her six pets, gardening or being creative with fashion and design. You can follow her on LinkedIn.