How should I define the type of my aunt and uncle in order to specify among my parents, whose brother or sister they are?

Is it the natural way of it to precede these nouns with the adjectives "maternal" and "paternal" or there is another fixed term for them which I have to know?

I have always said:

She is my maternal aunt or he is my paternal uncle and so on.

But for soem unknow reasons these terms strike me a bit philosophical. I wonder if you let me know about it.

  • 2
    It sounds very technical because we don't really care whether your aunt is a maternal or a paternal aunt. If you really need to specify, I think the best way is to say my mother's sister etc., but you could also say she's my aunt on my mother's side.
    – user96060
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 11:44
  • @Minty Pretty sure that you're supposed to answer in the Answers, not the comments.
    – nick012000
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 12:48
  • @nick012000 If that were provided as an actual answer, I would downvote it. It ignores the other senses of maternal and paternal, which would be commonly understood in this context. Commented May 26, 2019 at 17:00
  • So @Jason Bassford do my offers work in this sense?
    – A-friend
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 17:12
  • 1
    @A-friend Yes, it's very common. If you follow the links I provided, you'll see that the dictionary uses examples of just such sentences. Commented May 26, 2019 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


Maternal and paternal work; you can have a maternal uncle and a paternal aunt.

You might also say the distaff side for the female side of a family, or the spear side for the male side.

‘the family title could be passed down through the distaff side’



Different languages and cultures have different ways of describing relatives; see

How can you recognize "uncle" is father's brother or mother's brother? (Is there any "default option"? )

the Arabic language (for example) has a special word for the uncle of the father side (am- عم) and the uncle of the mother side (khal-خال)



  • Thank you @Owain, but don't they sound too technical in this sense?
    – A-friend
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 17:58
  • 1
    They're quite a formal way of saying "my mother's aunt" but would be understood by most people.
    – Owain
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 19:13

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