nibling, niephling, niefling, etc

In honor of my new niephling Avery:

A few years back, Arthur E introduced me to the word "niephling," a gender-neutral word for nieces and nephews. Most useful when the niephling-to-be's gender is unknown, or (in plural) when referring to a set of nieces and nephews collectively.

The other day, Karen H used the word "nibling," which I had never heard before. Apparently (according to that Wiktionary entry) coined by analogy with "sibling." Which seems mildly odd to me; if I'd coined the word, I might've tried to come up with something similar to "cousin," 'cause to me the idea of nieces and nephews is more like the idea of cousins than like the idea of siblings. Then again, I quite like the word "nibling" regardless of its derivation, and "nousin" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

(After casting about for other gender-neutral close-kinship terms, I noticed "parent," and momentarily thought that perhaps uncles and aunts should be collectively referred to as "aurents." Which is further evidence, if any were needed, that I shouldn't be left in charge of coining words.)

Wiktionary's first cite of "nibling" dates to 1989 (in a university-press book), but several recent cites in Wiktionary, as well as various Google search results for [nibling], suggest to me that the word may be catching on.

The word "niephling," sadly, does not seem to be catching on. It appears on only half a dozen web pages. A couple of different people have apparently coined it independently; I'll have to ask Arthur whether he did so as well, or whether he got it from someone else.

An alternative spelling, niefling, is in slightly wider use. And a Salon commenter a few years ago introduced a sort of hybrid of all these term: niebling. I kinda like that word, but it would make me want to hide my rings from any niebling who visited.

Anyway, I think I'll stick with "niephling" for the time being, but if "nibling" continues to catch on, I may switch. The latter is certainly easier to spell, and it has a more affectionate sound to it (to my ear), more suitable (than "niephling") for saying to one's infant niblings.

3 Responses to “nibling, niephling, niefling, etc”

  1. Karen Healey

    The niblings are the children of your siblings, that’s how!

  2. Dan P

    I’ve been enjoying using “niecew” whenever applicable ever since a friend used it in vis congratulation to me on my impending, er, aurenthood.

  3. Tricia

    Hey, I’m one of those niephling users! (I was looking at my blog stats and saw this incoming link.) It really is a useful word, and it seems like one of the possibilities should catch on! But nibling sounds like what we do on carrots, so I’d like to avoid that one. :^)


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