Relatives (familiares or parientes in Spanish) are those people who belong to our own family. They can be related to us by birth or consanguinity (familia de sangre) or by marriage or affinity (familia política). It is useful to distinguish between members of your nuclear family (familia nuclear) and members of your extended family (familia extensa). On the one hand, we normally live at home with the members of the first type of family; on the other hand, we usually share with members of the second group very special moments of our lives, such as birthdays (cumpleaños), weddings (bodas), or Christmas dinners (cenas de navidad), among many others.

If you want to boast about your Spanish level in front of your relatives in one of these celebrations or if one of your relatives speaks Spanish, I suggest that you learn (if you can, of course) all of the terms that are going to appear in this article; they apply to the two kinds of family equally.

Let’s take a Spain-based family that is also well known abroad as an example: the Spanish royal family (familia real española); more particularly, let’s take also King Juan Carlos I as our point of reference in the family tree (árbol genealógico) on the following page; and let’s meet some of their most prominent members at the same time as we learn vocabulary.

As a member himself of the House of Bourbon, nearly all of King Juan Carlos I’s direct ancestors have reigned over Spain: his grandfather (abuelo) Alfonso XIII and his great-grandfather (bisabuelo) Alfonso XII, to name two. He is also Isabella II’s great-great-grandson (tataranieto), one of the few Spanish regnant queens. The exception to this lineage is Juan Carlos I’s father (padre), Infante Juan, who was not allowed to reign due to Franco’s dictatorship. Infante Juan later stepped down in favour of his son (hijo).

Juan Carlos has two sisters (hermanas), Pilar and Margarita, and one brother (hermano), Alfonso. He married Sofia in 1962; his wife (esposa o mujer) has given birth to three children (niños): Elena, Cristina, and Felipe (the heir). Through their marriages, more people have become Juan Carlos I’s relatives. Jaime de Marichalar, Elena’s husband (esposo o marido), was his son-in-law (yerno), although Elena and Jaime are no longer married. There is also Iñaki Urdangarín, Cristina’s husband, who has become quite popular lately. Letizia Ortiz became Juan Carlos’s daughter-in-law (nuera) when she married Felipe, the heir, in 2004, and is the future Queen consort of Spain. All these marriages have produced many grandchildren (nietos) to Juan Carlos: Froilán, Juan, Sofía, and many others. But the most relevant is his granddaughter (nieta) Leonor, Felipe’s firstborn child and new heir apparent to the throne.

These are some of Juan Carlos I’s most popular relatives. It is much more complex than it might appear at first glance, but I hope this family tree will help you acquire some words related to family.


 Hero image by Justin Scott Campbell (CC BY-ND 2.0)