English has the words brother and sister, but then we also have the word sibling as a gender-neutral version. We have the words aunt and uncle as well, but no gender-neutral version. What languages have such a word? Are there any that have such a word and don't have gender-specific options at all?

  • In Spanish, Los tíos could mean either "uncles" or "aunts and uncles" (in any combination). Note, however, that Las tías can only mean "aunts". I'm not sure if this qualifies your requirements. Jun 7, 2016 at 3:29
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    Also, there are languages that have four words for "uncle/aunt". :-) Jun 7, 2016 at 3:31
  • @bytebuster: The same is true in Portuguese and I believe Italian. Likely some other Romance languages as well.
    – Flimzy
    Jun 7, 2016 at 5:47
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    @Bytebuster: but that is because the masculine gender traditionally subsumes the feminine in a plural. That doesn't give a word that means a (singular) uncle or aunt.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 7, 2016 at 11:58
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    @bytebuster Standard Mandarin has at least fourteen different words for ‘uncle/aunt’ (if you include your parents’ siblings’ spouses as being ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’). Jun 14, 2016 at 22:38

1 Answer 1


I'll offer that in Khmer there is only a gender-neutral term for older siblings of your parents, អ៊ុំ /ʔom/. The terms for younger siblings of your parents are gender-specific, មីង /miːŋ/ for females and ពូ /puː/ for males.

Like the Thai example cited in the comments, these are honorific terms not restricted to family, however unlike Thai, there is no general distinction between paternal and maternal aunts and uncles. For more information on Khmer honorifics, here is a decent blog post on the subject.

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