Okay, the title makes it seems as though I made these terms up, but I’ll show you that this, of course, isn’t the case.

I’ve talked about gen­dered lan­guage in the past (using they as a third-per­son, sin­gu­lar pro­noun; using Mx; avoid­ing using sex­ist pro­nouns; using woman or female as an adjec­tive). Today, I want to talk about gen­dered lan­guage again, espe­cial­ly regard­ing fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships.

In the Eng­lish lan­guage, there are often gen­der neu­tral options to the gen­dered words we use in fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships:

Female Male Neu­tral
Daugh­ter Son Child
Moth­er Father Par­ent
Sis­ter Broth­er Sib­ling
Grand­ma Grand­pa Grand­par­ent

And so on.

Some­thing I noticed recent­ly was that there didn’t seem to be a gen­der neu­tral term for niece/nephew. While research­ing this, I came across two terms I’d nev­er heard of: nib­ling and nephling


Nib­ling has been around for over half a cen­tu­ry, first coined by Samuel E. Mar­tin, a lin­guist at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty. It’s a neol­o­gism com­bin­ing the N in nephew and niece with the “ibling” in sib­ling.

It’s far from com­mon, but it has appeared in a few print­ed works, most­ly obscure texts and arti­cles.

I should men­tion that nib­ling is also an ear­li­er spelling of nib­bling, appear­ing as ear­ly as the turn of the 17th cen­tu­ry in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.


Nephling is a syn­onym of of nib­ling, but it’s been around at least 100 years longer than the lat­ter. The first occur­rence of nephling I could find was from 1843 in a let­ter writ­ten by the author Nathaniel Park­er Willis.

It’s a com­bi­na­tion of nephew and sib­ling. Alter­na­tive spellings include niephling and niefling, although those are recent inven­tions, pos­si­bly because nephling seemed too male-cen­tric.

Bonus: Sofralia

And if nei­ther of those sound appeal­ing, you might appre­ci­ate this third option.

An attor­ney rab­bi in Detroit coined the term sofralia (a com­bi­na­tion of the Latin words sofra, and lia: “sis­ter”, “broth­er”, and “child”). Appar­ent­ly, he was frus­trat­ed with the lack of no col­lec­tive term for nephews and nieces, so made up his own. Even though 2 already exist­ed.

Need­less to say, sofralia is far rar­er than nib­ling and nephling, and that’s say­ing some­thing.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness. Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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