I've seen an article mentioning the term affine when speaking about humans. I'm familiar with it from mathematics and in geometry it's precisely defined relation between objects.

I've tried to figure out how it reflects on the interaction or relationship between people but I'm not totally certain I see it entirely correctly. Goolearching drowns in math noise, regrettably.

What would an intuitive impression be when mentioning affine relation in social context?

Please note that I'm not looking for an explanation of what was meant in the article - that's perfectly clear based on the rest of the text. I'm trying to get a general understanding of that specific term.

  • 2
    Affine (noun) seems to mean a relative by marriage.
    – Mick
    Nov 16, 2016 at 10:45
  • Affine means "related by marriage", but don't use it outside a technical context; most people will not know the word. I'm only familiar with it from studying Anthropology.
    – stangdon
    Nov 16, 2016 at 13:10
  • @stangdon Could it be stretched to mean related no-by-blood, where related is possibly more than actual marriage or parternship, e.g. platonic friendship between buddies? Emphasis on stretch. Nov 16, 2016 at 13:32
  • @KonradViltersten - Eh, it would be a big stretch. It pretty much always means "a family relationship that isn't a blood relationship"; I've never seen it used for anything else.
    – stangdon
    Nov 16, 2016 at 15:03
  • @stangdon Agreed on the stretchiness. Just for the same of completeness - here's the article (look for affinity). Nov 16, 2016 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


I doubt many speakers of English would have any "intuitive" sense of the meaning of affine. This word in its older, non-mathematical sense is almost entirely restricted to technical anthropological discourse.

In general affine contrasts with agnate, designating a person or kin group to whom one is related by marriage rather than by descent—the corresponding term in ordinary discourse would be in-laws. The term may also be extended to "in-laws of in-laws", designating kin groups to whom one is related by "chains" of marriages. But you may also encounter affine employed more narrowly in translating kinship terms which designate a specific kin group from which spouses are preferentially drawn.

  • As far the definition goes, @Mick states what googlearching gives us. In the article, that doesn't make sense (which he of course can't know, because I deliberately chose to omit that information, in order to avoid influence). However, could it be used to express a (non-matrimonial, platonic, casual) relation other than by blood? As in, a person to whom the subject isn't related but who evolves a relation, maybe even friendship, affinely. Nov 16, 2016 at 13:26
  • @KonradViltersten To the best of my knowledge, affine has never been used this way in English. However, another derivative from the same Latin root, affinity, is used for any sort of "natural" or "unconscious" positive relationship. We say that "Ham has an affinity with cheese", and the usual English translation of Goethe's Wahlverwandschaften is "Elective Affinities". ... And I now see that "affinity" is used this way in the article you linked. Nov 16, 2016 at 16:20
  • It's probably my ignorance of English because I see no difference between ham's affinity with cheese and ham's affine to cheese. Or, rather, I saw no difference until recently. Now, that I've been educated hereby, I start to discriminate between those two. Thanks! Nov 16, 2016 at 21:55
  • @KonradViltersten You're welcome. In case it's not perfectly clear: in English, affine designates the related person or object, not the relationship. Nov 17, 2016 at 18:08

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