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The Extended Punjabi Family

This entry is dedicated to my cousin in London, who is about to have family from India come to visit.

The Punjabi extended family is as rich and complex as the cuisine. Familial responsibilities, obligations and levels of respect have depths that are difficult to put into words.  I don’t think non-Indian people really get it, but I’m open to correction if I’m wrong.
To make my point (and to document what cannot be found on the web),  I have put together a summary of Punjabi kinship terms, many of which simply do not exist in the english language.  You should note that some of the terms double up as swear words due to the tenuous relationship. (Your wife’s brother, or sala, apparently is usually a pain.)
Also there are different words for relationships depending on relative age in the family (to ensure the right amount of respect) and whether you are on the maternal or paternal side.  Punjabi families are usually all about the boys…
After my research, what I found most interesting was that there was no word for ‘Cousin’ (you’re just brothers and sisters) and no word for ‘Husband’ or ‘Wife’!  If you want to refer to your husband, you call him ‘Your Man of the House’. Your wife would be called ‘Your Bride’.
Needless to say, the Punjabi family can be an endless source of joy and at times an endless source of stress!  :)
If I have missed out any terms, please leave me a comment as I am trying to come up with an exhaustive list.
And many thanks to my Sas and Nanaans for their help in pulling this list together!
Mother – Mataji
Father – Papaji
Son – Putar
Daughter – Dhee
My Mother’s Mother – Naniji
My Mother’s Father – Nanaji
My Father’s Mother – Dadiji
My Father’s Father – Dadaji
My Older Brother – Veerji
My Younger Brother – Kaka
My Sister – Bhenji
My Younger Sister – Bhen
My Mother’s Grandparents – Parnani / Parnana
My Father’s GrandparentsPardadi / Pardada
My Husband – Karwala (loosely translated: Man of the House)
My Wife – Woti (loosely translated: Bride)
My Cousin – ???
My Father’s Older Brother – Taya
My Father’s Older Brother’s Wife - Tayee
My Father’s Younger Brother - Chacha
My Father’s Younger Brother’s Wife - Chachi
My Father’s Sister - Bhua
My Father’s Sister’s Husband – Phupher
My Mother’s Brother - Mama
My Mother’s Brother’s Wife - Mami
My Mother’s Sister – Masi
My Mother’s Sister’s Husband – Masar
My Brother’s Wife – Bharjayee or Bhabi
My Brother’s Son – Bhateeja
My Brother’s Daughter – Bhateejee
My Sister’s Husband - Jeeeja
My Sister’s Son - Panewa or Bhanja
My Sister’s Daughter – Panewee
My Wife’s Brother – Sala (but you never say Salaji!)
My Wife’s Brother’s Wife – Salehar
My Wife’s Sister – Sali
My Wife’s Sister’s Husband – Sandhu
My Husband’s Sister – Nanaan
My Husband’s Sister’s Husband – Nanaan Waya
My Husband’s Older Brother – Jeth
My Husband’s Older Brother’s Wife – Jethani
My Husband’s Younger Brother – Dewar
My Husband’s Younger Brother’s Wife – Dewarani
My Son’s Son – Potra
My Son’s Daughter – Potri
My Daughter’s Son – Dotra
My Daughter’s Daughter – Dotri
My Son-in-Law – Jawai
Daughter-in-Law – Noo
My Father-in-Law – Sora
My Mother-in-Law – Sas
Father-in-Law to Father-in-Law – Kurm
Mother-in-Law to Mother-in-LawKurmani

6 Responses to “The Extended Punjabi Family”


  • Wait, does this mean Chandler is my Panewee-in-law?

  • it isn’t just any family arriving…it’s the head honcho, the main man, the head of the family will be landing on our shores very soon….I’ve already started to hear the long list of things I should and shouldn’t be doing while he’s here….out of respect of course. :)

  • Honestly Suresh, lets keep that one on the DownLow. Besides, honestly speaking here, I probably would have no idea if you were talking to me or not cause I can’t even begin to pronounce or guess the pronunciation of that word.

    Cheers.

  • Karma and Jiya are my Panewa or Bhanja and Panewee…..hmmmmm

  • Hey, great list, I spent ages trying to find something similar, ill try to build some sort of interactive page so I can make this into a family tree app

  • I love this list, and am so happy that you found it useful:) I created it because I too spent forever trying to find something similar and could not. Good luck with the interactive page!

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