auncle, ommer, ontle: gender-neutral aunt/uncle term?

I was idly wondering a few days ago whether there’s a non-gendered term for an aunt or uncle. Such a term might be useful (for example) for referring collectively to a group of aunts and uncles, or for referring to a specific aunt-or-uncle of unknown gender, or for referring to a nonbinary-gendered aunt or uncle.

But before I got around to posting the question, Mya coincidentally asked the same question.

It turns out that there isn’t a widely used term in English. But see comments on Mya’s post for various suggestions, serious and otherwise.

A couple of the proposed terms, notably parsib and pibling, are in use by various people, but as Mya notes, terms based on the word sibling “aren’t inclusive of the way ‘aunt’ & ‘uncle’ are often honorary titles for family friends or community adults.”

I’ve also seen auncle, but as with most neologisms I come across, I find that aesthetically unsatisfying.

Ann Leckie’s novel Provenance uses the term nuncle to refer to third-gendered parent-siblings, but (a) that’s specifically referring to a particular third gender, not a gender-neutral term, and (b) it’s a traditional word for uncle in some English dialects.

I think my personal favorite of the various terms suggested in the discussion on Mya’s post is ommer. I don’t know the derivation, but I like the sound of it. Even though I like being Uncle Jed to various kids, I think I would be okay with someone calling me Ommer Jed.

PS: Maybe after we find a gender-neutral noun, the adjective form (corresponding to avuncular) will become obvious, but in the meantime, that too is lacking in English. I personally am fond of avauntular, but only as a joke. I suppose the adjective form of ommer would be something like ommerical? Or ommerish?

10 Responses to “auncle, ommer, ontle: gender-neutral aunt/uncle term?”

  1. Jessica Bernstein

    You mention that we need a gender-neutral adjective to correspond to “avuncular,” and I agree. Is there even a feminine form of “avuncular”? I have described my advice to a nephew of mine as “auntly,” but that word doesn’t seem comparable to “avuncular.” A woman who is auntly would probably be called “maternal,” rather than “auntly.”
    Also, you mention one possible gender neutral term could be “auncle.” I wonder how that would be pronounced. If your auncle has thick ankles, would they be called “kauncles”?

    • -Ed.

      The modifier for aunt is materteral (or materterine) but I wouldn’t suggest using it in conversation.


    • I exist, no name given

      auncle I pronounce as (short) O sound like in cot or mop or palm.

    • Ray Marshall

      I like aunclet.
      All the letters of each and easy to say. Also unique sounding. Auncle can just sound like a mispronunciation of “uncle”.
      The quality of uncleness (avuncular) and auntiness could be auncletish (aunclêtish)

  2. irilyth

    I was thinking about this the other day too, after I used the word “niephling” around the kids for the first time, and figured that “aunkling” was the obvious converse. :^)

  3. Matt

    I thought for years that there had to be some collective term for aunts and uncles, and just today, I saw “pibling”, which I suppose is like a cross between parent and sibling, much like nibling (nieces and nephews) is sibling and nephew/niece.

  4. Christopher Kasak

    Auncle and Unctie I use most often personally (maybe first to count Unctie/Auncty/etc.). Elder as well. Parent have seen in some Indigenous societies as well, Renny being a familiar form. Aummer. Pibling seems to be catching. Paräbling would propose as 2.2.2 ver. upgrade update, for its harkening to parable and parabola arcs, as well as Parent/Sibling/Neighbling

  5. KTO

    I just saw someone use “Onkie” and I really love this.


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