Norwegian language For Members

How to talk about family in Norwegian 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
How to talk about family in Norwegian 
Here's how to speak about family in Norwegian. Pictured is a mother and child in Ålesund. Photo by Andrei Miranchuk on Unsplash

Talking about family in Norwegian can be tricky. Discussing your relatives may require a bit of in-depth knowledge of how they are related to you, so it's time to start brushing up on your family history.


Let's start with grandparents. 

Norway has two different words for "grandmother" and "grandfather", depending on which side of the family you are talking about. This can be confusing for those whose native language doesn't come with these distinctions. You will almost feel yourself retracing your family tree in your head as you chat about your grandparents in Norwegian. 

Although most Norwegians refer to their mum and dad as mamma and pappa, some Norwegians will also use mor and far, which are the terms also used in the names for grandparents- and other relatives. 

Grandparents, or besteforeldre in Norwegian, can be called bestemor (grandmother) or bestefar (grandfather). Still, it's probably more common to hear the slightly shorter but more specific, combination of mor (mother) and far (father) used in four different variations, a unique one for each grandparent.


To understand the four combinations, we'll take a closer look at mor and far and how they combine to describe your relation to your grandparents.

First off, let's look at your maternal grandparents. Your mother's mother, or maternal grandmother would be mormor, and your maternal grandfather would be morfar. If it's your mother's side of the family, you'll use more mor first, and if it's your father's, you'll use far.

Your grandparents on your father's side would be farmor (grandmotherand farfar (grandfather

So to recap: your mum's parents are mormor and morfar, and your dad's parents are farmor and farfar.

It's also worth noting that there will be local variations in different parts of the country. In Hallingdal, for example, those who speak the regional dialect will use gomo for grandmother and gofa for grandfather. 

This also means that the same grandparent can be called two different names depending on their exact relationship with their grandchild. If a woman has a son and a daughter, for example, her son's children would refer to her as farmor, but her daughter's children would call her mormor.

In Norwegian, great-grandparents are rereferred to as oldemor (grandmother's mother) or oldefar (grandfather's father).

A great-great-grandparent is a tippoldefar or tippoldemor. Depending on how many generations you need to go back will depend on how many times you'll need to use "tipp". 

Luckily, when discussing aunts and uncles, the process is much simpler. For that, you can just use tante (aunt) and onkel (uncle). 

Nieces and nephews are also straightforward. Your niece is your niese, and your nephew is your nevø. It doesn't matter whether they are from your brother's or sister's side. 

Cousins are simple, too, although they do have gender-specific words. A female cousin is a kusine, and a male one is a fetter.

Brothers and sisters, you can refer to as søster (sister) and bror (brother). You can also use lille (little) or stor (big) to describe whether they are older or younger than you. When doing this, it should all be one word—for example, lillesøster (little sister). 

Finally, grandchildren. The general word for "grandchild" in Norwegian is barnebarn ("children's-child"), which is the word you're most likely to hear.

And finally, we will briefly touch upon the in-laws. To discuss in-laws, you'll simply need to add sviger to the relation—for example, svigerforeldre parents-in-law, or svigersøster sister-in-law. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also