Definition of ‘cousin once removed’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Two people are “first cousins once removed” when their relationship is that of first cousins plus one generation. In particular, this means that they do not belong to the same generation and are usually not of similar age. Probably the best way to explain the concept is via a family tree:

first-cousin-once-removed

The situation with “higher” cousins is analogous. A person with whom you are related as second cousins plus one generation is your “second cousin once removed”; your first cousin plus two generations is your “first cousin twice removed”, and so on.

What sets your “cousins once removed” apart from other terms expressing family relationships is that they may be either a generation younger or a generation older than you. To avoid this asymmetry, it is possible to refer to first cousins once removed by generalizing the uncle/aunt–nephew/niece relationship:

second-nephew-niece

However, “second nephew/niece” may be easily misunderstood as “second-born nephew/niece”, so it may be preferable to refer to them simply as a cousin’s son/daughter. They are also sometimes referred to as “cousin-nephew” and “cousin-niece”.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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