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Hmong Family Names: Addressing Family

Have you ever wondered what to call your second cousin’s wife’s mom? Well, you would probably explain to someone your relationship just as I asked. However, in the Hmong culture, there’s the typical immediate family of mom, dad, siblings, etc., and then when you get married and have children, all hell seems to break loose. All my life I’ve had trouble remembering who is who and how we are related.

To be honest I don’t even know if the title of this matches what I want this to be about. Proper name? What to call family members? I don’t know! I just hope I get some people reading it as I find a lot of my visitors to this website come to read the Hmong category.

I’ve always known what to call my immediate uncles and aunts from either side, maternal or paternal, but some times when you get married all of a sudden those names you called them by no longer seem to exist. You somehow are now related to them by your husband. This means you may have to start calling your cousin, your “nyab” just because she is now married to your husband’s nephew.

For the life of me, I don’t know why they make it so complicated! I know I am not the only one in my generation that struggles with this. The older generation knows who and how to call anyone, all they have to do is start a conversation. The conversation can even go back to which village did you come from. Even if it comes out that they are not related, they will still somehow find a way to say they are and will have a name to call each other. For example, no relation at all however my third cousin, once removed, married your first cousin’s brother-in-law. Ah, that makes us “nus npawg”, in other words brother cousins.

Did you get that…?

As long as I’ve tried to document this, I may need a bigger graph then I thought. That will be a project that will be continued. While that’s still in the work, I thought I would share the ones you should know for immediate, by blood, very close, living or lived in the same house kind of family members. I am Hmong white, so I won’t even hit the Hmong green pronunciations or terms.

When you are young and everything is great
Hmong Family Tree Boy Girl

And then you get married and now become one

Family Generation in Hmong

Finally, you have children so you call each other what your children would call 

What Hmong children call your siblings

Final Thoughts

This is only the beginning. I hope to finish my next little graph soon and post it. It might take longer than these as now every relative you have some times changes. Relatives and their names also are different whether your a female or male, whether you’re married or not, or whether you’re even related or not.

In the Hmong community, we’re all somehow related. Anyone can marry anyone as long as you don’t have the same last name. And well, there’s only 18 last names so good luck!

-Anna MV






Anna MV

A Hmong woman practicing life finding art in everything. Blogger of Family, Life, Culture, Autism, Self Awarenes

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