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Romanian Family Traditions and Terms

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To some people, family means no one gets left behind.

To others, it just means tasty food.

Learning to talk about and understand the different words for family members in other languages can seem like a daunting task. There’s, what, a dozen words you’ve got to learn all at once? Two dozen?

But here’s why it’s worth it to learn about Romanian family traditions and terms in your Romanian studies.

Speaking clearly and correctly about a topic so integral to a culture like family is an important challenge to overcome. There are few things so closely tied to one’s identity as one’s family – just imagine the kind of gut reaction you would have if your sister called you “mom!”

In this article, you’ll learn how to say “family” in Romanian, the most important family vocabulary in Romanian, as well as some information on family members in Romanian culture.

And when it comes to Romania in particular, you have an interesting combination to deal with. For one, the concept of family itself is probably quite similar to your own, if you come from a Western culture. But for another?

Well, you’ll find that out in a moment. Let’s begin.

Table of Contents

  1. The Family in Romanian Culture
  2. Describing Your Immediate Family
  3. Describing Your Extended Family
  4. Your Family Through Marriage
  5. Patronymics and Matronymics in Romanian
  6. The Romanian Royal Family and Their Language
  7. How RomanianPod101 Can Help You Master Romanian

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1. The Family in Romanian Culture

Family and Happy Life

Generally speaking, families in Romania aren’t very different from families in the rest of Europe and North America.

Marriages tend to be stable, and people living in big cities tend to have fewer kids. Young people are expected to be relatively independent when they reach adulthood, though that does bring us to one minor difference between Romanians and people from other cultures.

Simply put, the family unit is stronger in Romania. You know your cousins well, your parents rely on you for support in their old age, and you’re expected to be a loving and helpful parent to your own children.

Romanians tend to get together in large family reunions for holidays and important celebrations. It’s not unusual for teenage Romanians to travel to other cities or towns to help out their grandparents during the summer, whether that be on the farm, around the house, or at their small business.

Fortunately for someone outside the culture, these subtle differences don’t present huge challenges. And, as you’re about to see, neither does the language.

2. Describing Your Immediate Family

Family Words

First things first: The words for “family” or familie in Romanian have no surprises. Pretty much every word maps directly onto its English equivalent, so there’s no need to worry that your conception of “brother” somehow doesn’t match up with the Romanians’.

Let’s start with parents, maybe the simplest family terms in Romanian for English speakers:

Mother” is mamă, which makes plenty of sense. “Father” is tată, also not too far if you think of the English “daddy.” Interestingly, the informal, childlike word for “daddy” is, in fact, tati. And “parent” in general? That would be părinte.

There’s no single word for “sibling,” however, there is one for “twins.” It’s gemeni for “male twins” and gemene for “female twins.”

A “sister” is soră, and a “brother” is frate; you should recognize the Latin root from words like “fraternity” or “fraternize.” If you absolutely must include “brothers and sisters,” say exactly that: fraţi şi surori. Note that soră is irregular in the plural.

Romanian doesn’t have separate words for “older” or “younger.” Instead, you use mai mare after the word to indicate “older” and mai mic/mică for “younger.”

Onto children: The word in Romanian for “child” in a gender-neutral sense is copil, while a “son” is fiu and a “daughter” is fiică.

Remember, when talking about people in Romanian, we use the masculine plural for couples of mixed gender. So fraternal twins would be referred to as gemeni, and when speaking about your parents you’d use the male form părinți.

3. Describing Your Extended Family

Family Quotes

And yet we’re just getting started. As mentioned above, the concept of an “extended” family is slightly different in Romania, but only because you’re expected to be closer to those family members.

Moving up a generation, we have your bunic, or your “grandfather,” along with your bunică or “grandmother.” To them, you’re probably a “grandson” or nepot, or a “granddaughter” or nepoată.

Suppose your parents have siblings as well? No problems here. An “aunt” is mătușă, and “uncle” should be a piece of cake for English speakers, as it’s unchi. These words don’t change if someone is an aunt or uncle by marriage or by blood. A “cousin” is văr, another word which is inherently gender-neutral.

Here, we actually can’t shift the perspective like we did with grandparent/grandchild. The word for “nephew” is nepot, the same as “grandson,” and “niece” fits the same pattern. To be specific, we can say something like “nephew of an uncle” which would be nepot de unchi.

And then when it’s time to get really extended, there’s a handy prefix to put on some of these words. The prefix is stră-, cognate to “extra” in English (and Latin, where it ultimately derives from). Take a word like străvechi which means “very old; ancient.” That’s made up of stră– +‎ vechi, or “extra” + “old.”

So in family terms, we can slap that prefix onto a few of the words we learned. So: străbunic, străbunică, strănepot, and strănepoată. Doing so gives us the “great” generation. That is, a “great-grandfather,” “great-grandmother,” “great-grandson,” and “great-granddaughter!”

It even gives us a general word for “ancestor“: străbun.

The only exceptions are when talking about great-aunts and great-uncles. To do that in Romanian, you need the phrase unchi de gradul doi or străunchi for “great-uncle” and mătușă de gradul doi or strămătușă for “great aunt.”

4. Your Family Through Marriage

Like English, Romanian has plenty of words for your family-by-marriage, also known as your in-laws.

Before you get to that stage in your relationship, though, you need some words for love.

One’s “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” is iubit or iubită, respectively. This is, naturally, related to the base verb “to love,” which is a iubi.

After marriage (căsătorie) the happy couple becomes soț or “husband” and soție or “wife.”

And what about their families? Well, here we have a whole new set of words for relatives-in law. Your “parents-in-law” are your socru or “father-in-law” and soacră or “mother-in-law.” Your siblings by marriage? That would be your cumnat or “brother-in-law” and cumnată or “sister-in-law.”

Suppose your own child gets married? Their husband would be your ginere or “son-in-law,” and their wife would be your noră or “daughter-in-law.”

As the saying goes, soon comes a baby in a baby carriage. It turns out that names in Romanian sometimes follow family patterns as well…

Baby with Food on Face

5. Patronymics and Matronymics in Romanian

Parent Phrases

If you think of a “typical Romanian” name, what does it sound like?

Most likely, the last name is going to end in –scu, since that’s a feature of the majority of Romanian names. Why the popularity?

Well, the –escu or –scu suffixes actually mean “son of.” They’re what’s known as patronymics, or names passed down through the male line.

Matronymics aren’t quite so common. The pattern is roughly detectable by noting the preposition a and the genitive case marker –ei around a particular name, all formed into one word thanks to the passage of time. So a child of Maria would be a-Mariă-ei = Amariei.

This tradition doesn’t really happen very much anymore. In some countries—even in Europe—names will change every generation to reflect one’s ancestry. But nowadays, Romanian people tend to keep and pass down their last names.

6. The Romanian Royal Family and Their Language

Here’s an interesting bit of historical, political, and cultural trivia. Romania officially has no Familia Regală or “royal family.” So why does everybody know who they are?

Regele Mihai I, known as King Michael I in English, abdicated the throne in 1947. But he was still around, and although he lived for many years abroad, Romanians still knew who he was. By 2007, he had returned to the country and drafted some suggestions for how the modern parliament should treat the royal family—and they listened to him.

He outlined a line of succession, and that’s where we’ll get our final family-related vocabulary here today.

First, there hasn’t been a “queen” or regina for several hundred years—generally, kings are wed to princesses.

The word for “princess” is principesa, and as Michael had five daughters, there are currently five princesses. Traditionally, the word for “prince” is prinţ; however, Michael’s grandson is usually referred to as principele, a word that means the same thing but is noticeably different. Why’s that? Well, for various reasons, he’s been cut out of the line of succession!

7. How RomanianPod101 Can Help You Master Romanian

Reading this article is one thing. But what’s the best way to actually make sure you’re able to use and understand these words when they come up?

By using them.

Take a moment right now to look over the lesson materials right here on RomanianPod101.com and start locking those memories in. We offer an array of insightful blog posts, free vocabulary lists, and podcasts. Also check out our MyTeacher program for Premium Plus members if you’re interested in a one-on-one learning experience with your own personal Romanian teacher!

Then, the natural next step is to imagine yourself somewhere in Romania—a sunflower field, a friendly hostel, your country’s embassy—describing your own family in Romanian. Now what if somebody else you know was doing it?

And what if you were the king?

This kind of active imagination, combined with your ordinary studies, is a sure-fire way to really anchor new words into your memory. Some people even speak this stuff aloud and record it for later; you don’t have to share it with anyone!

When your Romanian skills have expanded to include any and all family matters, you’ll be prepared. So prepared, in fact, that you can walk right into a family reunion and leave everyone totally blown away.

We hope you found this article helpful. How are you going to practice these new Romanian family names? Let us know in the comments!

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