What Is the Meaning of Great Uncle Or Great Aunt?

Your family is your family. They are the people that you grow up around, and the ones that shape you into whom you will become in the future. But, it isn’t until you get a little older that you realize how complicated families can actually be. 

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Growing up, you will find that you often have lots of aunts and uncles. This is something that you typically will not question because it is simply what you are used to.

Some of these aunts and uncles will have no blood relation to you, while others will not be aunts or uncles in the traditional sense. 

In fact, some of your aunts and uncles will actually be your parent’s aunts and uncles. This makes them your great aunt or uncle. But how does this make them related to you? Read this guide to find out all you need to know about great aunts and uncles. 

What Is A Great Uncle Or Great Aunt? 

What is a Great Uncle or a Great Aunt

Well, first things first, let’s take a look at what a Great Uncle or Great Aunt is. Well, as we have said, a great Uncle or Aunt is a close relative of yours, but they are not your direct Aunt or Uncle.

Instead, your Great Uncle or Great Aunt is your parent’s Aunt or Uncle. This means that your Great Aunt/Uncle is the brother or sister of one of your Grandparents. 

When it comes to Great Uncles and Aunts, for each pair that you have, one will be related to you through blood, while the other will be related to you through marriage.

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But, generally, both are treated the same, and this is mainly because you normally grow up with your Great Uncle/Aunt in your life. 

You will not be related to both your Great Uncle and Aunt through blood because only one of these people will be blood-related to your grandparents.

The other will simply be part of your family because they married your Great Aunt or Uncle. Whereas, when it comes to your grandparents, you will be related to them both through blood as they are direct family of yours. 

You and your Great Aunt or Uncle will share a most recent common ancestor in one of your grandparents. So, to trace Great Aunts and Uncles, the best place to start is with your grandparents. 

What Relation Are You To Your Sibling’s Grandchildren?

As you grow older, your family line will likely grow. You will typically go on to have children yourself, and so will your siblings.

Then as time passes, your children, and your nieces and nephews will go on to have children of their own. This might leave you wondering what relation you are to these children, so let’s take a look. 

Obviously, when it comes to your children’s children, you will be a grandparent. But, what about your sibling’s grandchildren?

Well, in this situation, you will become exactly what your grandparent’s siblings are to you. This means that you will become the Great Aunt or Uncle to these children. 

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Your sibling is the most recent common ancestor between you and these children, and you will be an Aunt or Uncle to their parents. So, the official title for your relation to these children will be Great Aunt/Uncle.

But, most people do not use this title because it sounds too formal. Instead, we simply refer to our Great Aunts and Uncles as Aunt or Uncle. This is what often leads to people becoming confused when they find out that their Aunt Sophie is actually their Great Aunt Sophie. 

So, when your sibling’s children go on to have children of their own, you will become a Great Aunt or Uncle through blood.

Likewise, when your partner’s siblings’ children go on to have children of their own, you will become a Great Aunt or Uncle through marriage. 

family tree with great uncle and great aunt

Are They Close Relatives?

A lot of the time, we grow up with our Great Aunts and Uncles in our lives, without even realizing that they are our Great Aunts/Uncles.

The name ‘Great Aunt’ or ‘Great Uncle’ is pretty long-winded, which is why we typically refer to these family members as just Aunt or Uncle. But, how does the ‘great’ affect our relationship with them? And are we closely related to these people? Let’s take a look. 

Well, your Great Aunt/Uncle is actually a very close relative in terms of DNA. Of course, this will only apply to a Great Aunt/Uncle that is blood related to you.

In the grand scheme of your family tree, this relative is very closely related to you, and there are only 2 generations between you and them. For this reason, you will both share a lot of common DNA

It is this closeness that usually leads to you simply referring to these relatives as Aunt or Uncle.

The word ‘great’ puts a distance between you both that is unnecessary, and outside your family tree there isn’t really any need for it. That is why you might not have heard this phrase used before.  

What Is A Half-Great Uncle Or Aunt?

But, ‘Great Aunts’ and ‘Great Uncles’ aren’t always that simple. That is because there is another relative that goes by this name which you might not have heard of before. This is a ‘Half-Great’ Uncle or Aunt. So, what does this phrase mean? Let’s find out. 

Well, the term ‘half’ is used when it comes to Great Uncles and Aunts in the same way that it is used for half-siblings. So, half-Great Aunts and Uncles operate similarly to your half-siblings.

As you probably know, half-siblings are siblings which you share one parent with. Most of the time, you will simply refer to these siblings as your siblings. But, in terms of your family tree, they are only half-related to you. 

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So, your Half-Great Uncle or Aunt will be a half-sibling of your Great-Grandparent. With older generations, this is less common.

But in the future, it will become increasingly more common for Half-Great Aunts and Uncles to feature on your family tree.

As we have said, in terms of personal family relationships, most people do not consider the ‘half’ to be important. But, if you are compiling your family tree, this small detail is very significant. 

Is It ‘Great’ Or ‘Grand’ Uncle/Aunt?

A point that is heavily debated is whether we should refer to these relatives as our Great Aunt/Uncle, or our Grand Aunt/Uncle.

The main point of confusion for this is the fact that our Grandparents are referred to as our Grandparents, and they are on the same level of the family tree as our Great Uncle/Aunt. So, why do we use these different terms? 

Well, it is generally accepted that we use these different terms purely out of habit. For many years, our Grandparents have been our Grandparents, and our Great Aunts/Uncles have been our Great Aunts/Uncles.

This is simply the way it has been. However, there is nothing stopping you from referring to your Great Uncle or Aunt as your Grand Uncle or Aunt. 

Are There Great-Great Uncles And Aunts?

Yes, there are Great-Great Uncles and Aunts, and you will find this out when you research your family tree.

But, the majority of the time we will not be able to meet these relatives because they will have sadly passed away before we were born. If you are able to meet a Great-Great Uncle or Aunt, then you are incredibly lucky. 

However, just because we are unable to meet these relatives doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. As you research your family tree, you will notice that you have many Great-Great Uncles and Aunts.

These relatives are often referred to as Great-Granduncle and Great-Grandaunt by family tree companies. 


In short, your Great Uncle or Great Aunt is a sibling of one of your Grandparents.

They are one of your parent’s Aunts or Uncles, and the extra generation between them and you, makes them your Great Aunt/Uncle. Likewise, you will become the Great Aunt/Uncle to your sibling’s Grandchildren. 


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