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Cantonese Family: “Grandmother” in Cantonese and More!


Although English is widely spoken in Hong Kong, learning how to describe your family in Cantonese will be of great benefit to you. Not only will it help you understand the local culture better, but it can also facilitate communication with the locals and show respect, especially considering that family is a strong institution here.

Hong Kong Victoria Harbour

Want to learn more about Hong Kong families in general and familiarize yourself with basic Cantonese family expressions? Keep reading and let give you a hand!

In this article, we’ll go over essential information including family titles in Cantonese, family Cantonese words, how to say family in Cantonese, and family relations in Cantonese.

By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll be much more informed on family meaning in Cantonese, and will be saying things like “grandmother” in Cantonese like it’s nothing!

But first…

Table of Contents

  1. What is Family in Cantonese Culture?
  2. Terms for Family Members in Cantonese
  3. More Family Terms in Cantonese: Terms for Relatives
  4. Terms for Family Members as a Married Person
  5. Endearment Terms for the Family in Cantonese
  6. Simple Sentences to Talk About Family in Cantonese
  7. How Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

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1. What is Family in Cantonese Culture?

Parent Phrases

Even though many locals have adopted Western ways of living, Chinese concepts like “family solidarity” and “family glory” are still prevalent. It’s also common for a grown-up to live with their family or parents, partly due to the sky-rocketed property prices and rent, as well as the strong emphasis on family bonding in Hong Kong.

Many HongKongers are living in nuclear families, usually with only one or two children, as most living spaces in Hong Kong are small. The traditional role of a mother is to take care of the family, though many HongKongers choose to hire a housemaid to carry out the domestic duties so that the mother can work full-time.

Age determines the seniority of a family. It’s expected for everyone to respect their elders in accordance with filial piety, a deeply rooted virtue in many Southeast Asian countries. HongKongers usually worship their ancestors at least twice a year, which stems from the belief that children are eternally indebted to their parents. This respect for seniority can also be observed through language; for example, “brother” is further classified as “elder brother” and “younger brother.”

2. Terms for Family Members in Cantonese

Family Words

Unlike in English, there are very specific terms in Cantonese to refer to family members. For example, “grandfather” is further broken down to describe whether one is talking about the grandfather on the paternal or maternal side. “Sister” is further broken down according to age. Check out the detailed family tree in Cantonese below!

#           Chinese Characters           Romanization                     Meaning
1           家庭           gaa1 ting4                     Family
2           父母           fu6 mou5                     Parents
3           父親           fu6 can1                     Father (formal – usually only appears in writing)
4           爸爸           baa4 baa1                     Father (less formal – applicable to both writing and speaking)
5           母親           mou5 can1                     Mother (formal – usually only appears in writing)
6           媽媽           maa4 maa1                     Mother (less formal – applicable to both writing and speaking)
7           孩子           haai4 zi2                     Children (formal – usually only appears in writing)
8           小朋友           siu2 pang4 jau5                     Children (less formal – applicable to both writing and speaking)
9           仔女           zai2 neoi2                     Children (less formal – applicable to both writing and speaking)
10           仔           zai2                     Son
11           女           neoi2                     Daughter
12           兄弟姊妹           hing1 dai6 zi2 mui6                     Siblings
13           哥哥           go4 go1                     Elder brother
14           弟弟           dai4 dai2                     Younger brother
15           姐姐           ze4 ze1                     Elder sister
16           妹妹           mui4 mui2                     Younger sister
17           爺爺           je4 je2                     Grandfather (father’s father)
18           公公           gung4 gung1                     Grandfather (mother’s father); interchangeable with #19
19           外公           ngoi6 gung1                     Grandfather (mother’s father); interchangeable with #18
20           嫲嫲           maa4 maa4                     Grandmother (father’s mother)
21           婆婆           po4 po2                     Grandmother (mother’s mother); interchangeable with #22
22           外婆           ngoi6 po4                     Grandmother (mother’s mother); interchangeable with #21
23           孫仔           syun1 zai2                     Grandson (son’s son)
24           外孫           ngoi6 syun1                     Grandson (daughter’s son)
25           孫女           syun1 neoi2                     Granddaughter (son’s daughter)
26           外孫女           ngoi6 syun1 neoi2                     Granddaughter (daughter’s daughter)

3. More Family Terms in Cantonese: Terms for Relatives

family Gathering with Food

#           Chinese Characters           Romanization           Meaning
1           伯父           baak3 fu6 Uncle (father’s elder brother)
2           叔父           suk1 fu6           Uncle (father’s younger brother)
3           姑丈           gu1 zoeng2           Uncle (father’s sister’s husband)
4           舅父           kau5 fu2           Uncle (mother’s brother)
5           姨丈           ji4 zoeng2           Uncle (mother’s sister’s husband)
6           叔叔           suk1 suk1           Uncle (general)
7           姑媽           gu1 maa1           Aunt (father’s elder sister)
8           姑姐           gu1 ze1           Aunt (father’s younger sister)
9           伯娘           baak3 noeng4           Aunt (father’s elder brother’s wife)
10           阿嬸           aa3 sam2           Aunt (father’s younger brother’s wife)
11           姨媽           ji4 maa1           Aunt (mother’s elder sister)
12           阿姨           aa3 ji1           Aunt (mother’s younger sister)
13           舅母           kau5 mou5           Aunt (mother’s brother’s wife)
14           姨姨           ji1 ji1           Aunt (general)
15           堂阿哥           tong4 aa3 go1           Elder male cousin (father’s side)
16           堂細佬           tong4 sai3 lou2           Younger male cousin (father’s side)
17           堂家姐           tong4 gaa1 ze1           Elder female cousin (father’s side)
18           堂細妹           tong4 sai3 mui2           Younger female cousin (father’s side)
19           表哥           biu2 go1           Elder male cousin (mother’s side)
20           表弟           biu2 dai2           Younger male cousin (mother’s side)
21           表姐           biu2 ze2           Elder female cousin (mother’s side)
22           表妹           biu2 mui2           Younger female cousin (mother’s side)
23           侄           zat6           Nephew (brother’s son)
24           外甥           ngoi6 saang1           Nephew (sister’s son)
25           侄女           zat6 neoi2           Niece (brother’s daughter)
26           外甥女           ngoi6 saang1 neoi2           Niece (sister’s daughter)

4. Terms for Family Members as a Married Person

Bride and Groom Photoshoot

#           Chinese Characters

          Romanization           Meaning
1           配偶           pui3 ngau5           Spouse
2           先生           sin1 saang1           Husband; interchangeable with #3
3           丈夫           zoeng6 fu1           Husband; interchangeable with #2
4           太太           taai3 taai2           Wife; interchangeable with #5
5           妻子           cai1 zi2           Wife; interchangeable with #4
6           老爺           lou5 je4           Father-in-law (husband’s father)
7           外父           ngoi6 fu2           Father-in-law (wife’s father)
8           奶奶           naai4 naai2           Mother-in-law (husband’s mother)
9           外母           ngoi6 mou2           Mother-in-law (wife’s mother)
10           姐夫           ze2 fu1           Brother-in-law (elder sister’s husband)
11           妹夫           mui6 fu1           Brother-in-law (younger sister’s husband)
12           大舅           daai6 kau5           Brother-in-law (husband’s elder brother)
13           舅仔           kau5 zai2           Brother-in-law (husband’s younger brother)
14           大伯           daai6 baak3           Brother-in-law (wife’s elder brother)
15           叔仔           suk1 zai2           Brother-in-law (wife’s younger brother)
16           阿嫂           aa3 sou2           Sister-in-law (elder brother’s wife)
17           弟婦           dai6 fu5           Sister-in-law (younger brother’s wife)
18           姑奶           gu1 naai1           Sister-in-law (husband’s elder sister)
19           姑仔           gu1 zai2           Sister-in-law (husband’s younger sister)
20           大姨           daai6 ji1           Sister-in-law (wife’s elder sister)
21           姨仔           ji1 zai2           Sister-in-law (wife’s younger sister)
22           女婿           neoi5 sai3           Son-in-law
23           新抱           san1 pou5           Daughter-in-law

5. Endearment Terms for the Family in Cantonese

Two Birds On Branch

#           Chinese Characters           Romanization           Meaning
1           阿爸           aa3 baa4           Father
2           爹地           de1 di4           Father
3           老豆           lou5 dau6           Father
4           阿媽           aa3 maa1           Mother
5           媽咪           maa1 mi4           Mother
6           老母           lou5 mou2           Mother
7           大佬           daai6 lou2           Elder brother
8           細佬           sai3 lou2           Younger brother
9           家姐           gaa1 ze1           Elder sister
10           細妹           sai3 mui2           Younger sister
11           老公           lou5 gung1           Husband
12           老婆           lou5 po4           Wife

6. Simple Sentences to Talk About Family in Cantonese

Family Quotes

1- 我係你爸爸

Romanization: ngo5 hai6 nei5 baa4 baa1
Meaning: I am your father.

Additional Notes:

係 (hai6) is a verb with many different functions and often translates as “to be.” However, we primarily use 係 (hai6) to express that one noun is equivalent to another, as in the sentence 我係你爸爸 (ngo5 hai6 nei5 baa4 baa1). In a simple sentence using 係 (hai6), the meaning of the noun after 係 (hai6) is usually more general than the noun before 係 (hai6). Only when both nouns are equally specific can they be interchanged.

2- 呢個係我爸爸

Romanization: ni1 go3 hai6 ngo5 baa4 baa1
Meaning: This is my father.

3- 嗰個係佢家姐

Romanization: go2 go3 hai6 keoi5 gaa1 ze1
Meaning: That is her elder sister.

4- 邊個係你妹夫?

Romanization: bin1 go3 hai6 nei5 mui6 fu1
Meaning: Who is your younger sister’s brother?

5- 我哋係老公老婆
Romanization: ngo5 dei2 hai6 lou5 gung1 lou5 po4
Meaning: We are husband and wife.

6- 佢係我大佬

Romanization: keoi5 hai6 ngo5 daai6 lou2
Meaning: He is my elder brother.

7- 我侄女伊利沙伯

Romanization: ngo5 zat6 neoi2 ji1 lei6 saa1 baak3
Meaning: My niece Elizabeth.

8- 邊個係達西嘅爸爸?

Romanization: bin1 go3 hai6 daat6 sai1 ge3 baa4 baa1
Meaning: Who is Darcy’s father?

9- 我妹妹去咗英國留學

Romanization: ngo5 mui4 mui2 heoi3 zo2 jing1 gwok3 lau4 hok6.
Meaning: My younger sister went to England to study abroad.

10- 佢係奧斯汀嘅細佬

Romanization: keoi5 hai6 ou3 si1 ting1 ge3 sai3 lou2
Meaning: He is Austin’s brother.

11- 我係溫特沃斯嘅老婆

Romanization: ngo5 hai6 wan1 dak6 juk1 si1 ge3 lou5 po4
Meaning: I am Wentworth’s wife.

12- 安妮係我嘅表妹

Romanization: on1 nei4 hai6 ngo5 biu2 mui2
Meaning: Anne is my “younger female cousin” (mother’s side).

How Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

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Before you go, let us know in the comments how you feel about using family words in Cantonese now. More comfortable, or still confused about something we went over? We know it’s a lot to take in, so feel free to reach out with questions or concerns!

Happy learning!

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