Co-brothers-in-law

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Suppose that Edward is married to Susan and Michael is married to Susan's sister Judith. Edward is therefore Judith's brother-in-law, and Michael is Susan's brother-in-law. In my usage, and what I think is standard English usage, there is no named relationship between Edward and Michael. In particular, they are not brothers-in-law. I was therefore surprised to see a news item in which men in this situation (one of whom is accused of trying to hire an assassin to kill the other) were described as brothers-in-law.

There are languages in which the relationship between Edward and Michael has a name. In Carrier, this is the -loh relationship. One could say Lhloh 'uhint'oh "they are each other's spouse's sibling's spouse/sibling's spouse's sibling". (For extra credit, try to pronounce the onset cluster [ɬl].) German Schwippschwager seems to mean the same thing. The term "co-brother-in-law" is apparently used by some authors as a translation of such terms, but doesn't seem to be in natural use.

What I'm wondering is whether the news item that described Edward and Michael as brothers-in-law is simply in error or whether there are native English speakers for whom this is correct usage.

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  1. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

    I use brother-in-law in that context, as does my wife. When her sister and her fiancee get married next year, I will refer to him as my brother-in-law.

  2. Nathan Myers said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

    It never occurred to me not to use "brother-in-law" to refer to my wife's sister's husband.

  3. Drew Smith said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

    Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary has the following definition for "brother-in-law" (definition 2b): "the husband of one's spouse's sister". The OED includes the language "Sometimes extended to the husband of one's wife's (or husband's) sister."

    So it doesn't appear to be an error.

  4. Bob Moore said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

    My usage of "brother-in-law" agrees with Bill's, but I was surprised to see that my ancient "Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary" adds "broadly : the husband of one's spouse's sister."

  5. Ron said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

    I'm with Ryan and Nathan. The situation you describe as surprising is commonplace to me, as it is to everyone in my family and in my wife's family. The extended usage of brother-in-law is what I learned growing up in New York decades ago. I have often commented to my wife that I wish we had standard terminology to distinguish between the two types of brother-in-law, but I have long accepted that in common English usage (as I understand it), the two are described identically.

  6. Rubrick said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

    Are there languages in which "my spouse's sibling" and "my sibling's spouse" are designated by different terms? The lack of such a distinction in English has always mildly bothered me.

  7. Brett said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

    I have always found this usage to be curious, but it is completely standard. My own family uses it, and it can be found in numerous books that offer advice on protocol.

  8. Joseph Dart said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

    I call my sister's husband's sister my "sister in law". But then I'm constantly correcting people who think I mean my (non-existent) wife's sister or my (equally non-existent) brother's wife and ask me "When did you/your brother get married?!!?"

  9. kuri said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

    I refer to my wife's brother's wife as my sister-in-law.

  10. Natália said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

    Rubrick, Portuguese has this distinction. My spouse's brother is my "cunhado". His wife is my "concunhada". The final o/a is just for masculine/feminine opposition. "Con" is what gives it a further degree of separation, not unlike the suggested "co".

  11. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

    At Wiktionary, we featured as out Word of the Day co-mother-in-law back in September. co-in-law document the whole series of terms.

  12. J. Goard said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

    Rubrick:

    Unfortunately, there sure are. I eventually figured out that the way to grapple with Korean family terms was just to attach them to individual members of my family as part of their "names", but I'm still somewhat inaccurate about many of the relationships that I don't have myself.

    I'm with the flexible "brother-in-law" group. I think many of us are close to such people in a similar way. Moreover, mine is a (younger)sister's-husband's-(younger)brother, very different from a wife's-sister's-husband in many cultures.

  13. Nicki said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

    I call my husband's sister's husband my brother-in-law, and my husband calls my brother's wife his sister-in-law. I didn't realize anyone would think that's strange!

    I enjoy the bedlam that ensues when I ask one of these complicated relationship questions to a table full of Chinese friends, like "My younger brother and sister in law have an (unborn) baby. (We don't know if we are getting a niece or nephew yet!) What should the baby call me in Chinese? What should the baby call my husband? They usually argue amongst themselves for 20-30 minutes, before telling us what they've decided, or that they can't agree!

  14. Ed Cormany said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

    my family sometimes resorts to a little morphological punnery to refer to these people: they are the 'out-laws'.

    (i've only heard it used in a collective sense though; it'd still be odd to refer to an individual as a 'brother-out-law')

  15. Melissa K Fox said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

    I've got that usage too. My brother and his wife's sister's husband are brothers-in-law, and that's always seemed relatively uncontroversial to me, until some colleagues and I had exactly this conversation over lunch. Apparently in some language one of my bosses is working on, unrelated women who are married to brothers are defined by a relationship translated approximately as "co-brides", and this particular boss wished we had a term for those women in English, because to him they were not sisters-in-law, but to me they are. There can be one of each of the kinds of relationship – consanguinity and marriage – but no more than that; so my brother is my brother, and my brother's wife is my sister-in-law, and my brother's wife's sister is … my brother's sister-in-law. :-) I have occasionally suggested that she be called my sister-in-law-in-law, but this is obviously a nonce form. Heh.

  16. Katherine said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

    If only my sister and her fiance would hurry up and get married so that I can call him my brother-in-law instead of my sister's fiance. Or even call him my sister's husband. A phrase with less syllables would be appreciated!

    I made up a name for a specifica family relationship because it occurs in my ancestors. Two brothers married two sisters and each couple had a child. I called the children "double cousins" because they are each other's cousin through two pathways. It would not be as interesting had the double cousins not married each other and had a child!

  17. Nathan Myers said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

    "Brother-in-law" is inherently ambiguous anyway, so extending it usefully doesn't violate anything. I have the precise description of the relationship ready to hand, too, and it's not longer than the more restricted treatment "wife's brother-in-law".

  18. mae said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

    My mother called the relationship described here "brothers-in-law by marriage" but I have no way to check it.

  19. Julia S. said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

    This did not use to be part of my idiolect, but it is now: I refer to both my brother's wife and my husband's brother's wife as "sister-in-law" because it is so frequent a usage here in Cambridge, Massachusetts and environs.

  20. DaveK said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

    I've used "brother/sister in-law" in the extended sense. Although I've had the feeling it was the wrong usage, it seemed like the decent thing to do was to acknowledge the family relationship with someone, even at the risk of a little imprecision in language. When in doubt, include someone in your family rather than leave them out.

  21. Mark P said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

    I would not have said it was common usage, but maybe that's because I don't have anyone with that relationship, or lack thereof.

  22. David Costa said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

    I use English 'brother-in-law' for that relation.

    Incidentally, the (Algonquian) Illinois language also has a term for that: niwiitikihkwa means 'my brother-in-law or sister-in-law, of people married to two sisters or two brothers'. The term can only be used if the two people in question are of the same gender; so for example, a man can't use it for a woman who's married to his wife's brother.

  23. John Hutch said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

    In our family, with my wife being one of 7 sisters, each of whom has a spouse, the notion that my wife's sister's husband is my "brother-in-law" is so ingrained into the family culture (and into her extended families' culture) that I found the original post / question strange and had to really think about if that description had ever applied to me. Thus my posting a comment.

    In our family, some ex-spouses of my sisters-in-law are still part of the family, and are considered "brothers-in-law", thus giving them some rights around family gatherings, who they can joke with about what, etc. .

    Also, having an extended brother-in-law relationship helps significantly at family functions where you're looking for someone to escape with .. "hey, bro – want to go to the bar for a beer and watch the game …"

    John

  24. J. W. Brewer said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

    I think I have jocularly referred to wife's-brother's-wife as my sister-in-law-in-law, but also non-jocularly referred to her as just sister-in-law. I'm not sure if there is any consistent practical/cultural difference between these degrees of connection in modern U.S. society, although there have been previous contexts where it did matter. For example, in England prior to the enactment in 1907 of the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act (kudos to Parliament for a straightforward name), a widower could not marry his sister-in-law narrowly defined, i.e., his late wife's sister, but was free to marry the widow of his late wife's late brother, who might fall within the broader definition. (For those with this sort of interest in the other sort of narrowly-defined sister-in-law, the Deceased Brother's Widow's Marriage Act didn't get enacted until 1921.)

    Compared to lots of societies out there in the ethnographic literature, doesn't English in general have a fairly minimal/impoverished set of kinship terms, leaving out all sorts of fine distinctions other languages draw?

  25. Eric TF Bat said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:40 pm

    My wife refers to my brother's wife as her sister-in-law; I refer to my wife's brother's wife as my sister-in-law. There seems nothing strange about this. For reference, we're Australian, with recent English ancestry.

    I also referred to my wife's other brother's girlfriend, who he lived with for many years in a de facto (common law) marriage, as my sister-in-facto. I suspect this is not found in the Oxford.

  26. Faldone said,

    November 19, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

    I am my wife's mother's son-in-law. My wife's sister's husband is also my wife's mother's son-in-law.. Seems only natural to assume that he and I are brothers-in-law.

  27. Nathan Myers said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:15 am

    Faldone: I think you must mean "logical", not "natural".

    JW: The only rationale I can conceive for the stricture noted would be fear that one might marry one sister for the money, and then the other sister for preference. More likely, given the Act, is that it was accidentally implied by some other language, just as now the great State of Texas is forbidden to recognize marriage of any kind.

  28. Sravana said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:18 am

    In Indian English, Edward and Michael are co-brothers. (This term is not condoned by prescriptivists, but it's fairly standard.)

  29. Benjamin Lukoff said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:20 am

    And then what if one of them allegedly pays to have the other one murdered? http://www.kirotv.com/news/21656617/detail.html
    I guess in this case they're just calling the two brothers-in-law.

  30. meesher said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:21 am

    This is totally foreign to me, and I suspect that part of the reason this usage strikes me as so odd is that for me the parties involved are not related. The "in-law" category extends honorary family membership to the parent or sibling of a spouse, or to the spouse of a sibling (spouse of parent/child of spouse has the special category "step"), but it doesn't include all of the in-law's family. The closest named term I can think of, where there is a double removal, is step-sibling, but that is a special case where the parties in question often live in the same household.

  31. Karen said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:21 am

    This is normal to me, too.

    Rubrick: Russian actually has four terms: zyat' sister's husband; shurin wife's brother; dever' husband's brother; svoyak wife's sister's husband

    there are three for sister-in-law: nevestka brother's wife; zolovka husband's sister ; svoyachenitsa wife's sister

    There are also different terms for parents-in-law: Svyokor/svekrov' husband's father/mother; test'/tyoshcha wife's father/mother

    They also have the useful terms svat and svat'ya, for the father and mother of your child's spouse.

    * granted, nowadays most Russians stick with zyat' and nevestka

  32. Karen said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:26 am

    @Katherine: I've heard double first cousin before – probably most famously in the Williamsburg novels of Elswyth Thane, in which Sedgwick and Sue were forbidden to marry because they were double first cousins plus.

  33. D. Sky Onosson said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:27 am

    As a native English speaker from Manitoba, this usage seems entirely unexceptional to me. My wife's sister's husband *is* my brother-in-law, as is her brother.

  34. J. W. Brewer said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:27 am

    Nathan M.: No, the prior ban was quite intentional and driven by the traditional theology of the Church of England and how it glossed various scriptural passages about what counted as incest. It took until the 20th century to disentangle secular English law from ecclesiastical law in that particular regard. That Henry VIII had experienced various difficulties as a result of marrying, with papal dispensation he subsequently wished to disavow, his sister-in-law (Katherine of Aragon, widow of his brother Arthur) may also have had something to do with it.

  35. Bobbie said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:39 am

    I like the Yiddish words:
    machetunim" : "relatives by marriage", "the members of one's wife's extended family",
    mishpocha: extended family (Yiddish משפּחה mishpokhe, …

  36. Charles in Vancouver said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 1:17 am

    In French, "beau-frère" is even looser. It can refer to either English "brother-in-law" or to a stepbrother. So i'd imagine it also works for the inlaw-inlaw case but I don't know for sure.

  37. Faith said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 1:39 am

    In my family we use in-laws to mean anything approximating an in-law situation. We don't marry much, but we do go in for long relationships, so those people become in-laws even though it is not actually a relationship in law at all. Because we are an unusually complicated family, we also have step-family who would not necessarily be considered steps by more exacting standards. We sometimes refer to the relatives to whom we cannot easily describe our relationship as [family member]-by-far: for example my former step-mother (whom I call my step-mother) is married to a man whom I call my step-father, but his step-children from a previous marriage I refer to as siblings-by-far.

    So to get back to your original question, describing the family members Bill mentions above as brothers-in-law would hardly turn a head in my family.

    @Bobbie, As I understand mekhutonim, it only means the relationship between the two sets of parents of people who are married. It does not refer more broadly to other in-laws. Where did you get the definition above?

  38. Faith said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 1:42 am

    And I just remembered: we may have gotten the [family member]-by-far construction from another language. Another feature of my family is that we all speak different languages. That lexical item may have come from my Mandarin-speaking sister. Perhaps a Mandarin speaker can chime in (or I will ask my sister).

  39. Daniel Rowlands said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 2:36 am

    I'm a native English-speaker (with no fluency in anything else) from the Midwest by way of DC, and I would use "brothers-in-law" in that context.

  40. Jangari said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 2:52 am

    One could, of course, take the Indigenous Australian attitude and say that Edward and Michael are brothers since they would have to have the same subsection (skin) in order to marry two different women of the same subsection, and any two people who have the same skin are siblings.

    If however, Edward were married to Susan, who had a brother, Michael, married to Judith, then Edward and Michael would be in a brother-in-law relationship, Susan and Judith would be in a sister-in-law relationship, and Edward and Judith would in fact be in a potential (but preferably not actuated) spouse relationship.

  41. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 3:14 am

    @Ed Cormany: I've been known to use the "-outlaw" suffix to describe people who would be in-laws if a couple were legally married. Not everybody likes that, though.

    This has come up on alt.usage.english a few times, and the results are much like those here—everything from people who've never heard the extended sense to people who thought everyone used it. I don't recall any regional pattern ever showing up.

  42. Josh said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 3:27 am

    That is fairly standard usage in our family. We extend the behavior farther still: my siblings refer to my wife's cousins as their cousins-in-law. As far as I can make sense of it, it seems to be somewhat a function of familial closeness. My wife's extended family is small and very close-knit. The two cousins mentioned are treated more like siblings by my wife and her sister. They have another branch of the family that they are less close to, since there is a 10+ year age gap, and a larger geographical separation. We don't tend to refer to them as cousins-in-law. To me, it's more of a distinction of whether you consider the person to be a brother, sister, cousin, and you only add the -in-law to indicate that it's by marriage rather than by blood.

  43. Liz Ditz said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 4:42 am

    My family has become pretty complicated what with divorces and remarriages and so on.

    However, in my family going back two generations or more, "sibling-in-law" refers not only to spouse's sibling, but spouse's sibling's spouse (with additional clarifications if necessary). We're lumpers, not splitters.

    If all the various relationships survive the divorce, "sibling-in-law" remains. For example, (get out your paper and pencils for charting in necessary) I refer to my former husband's sister's first husband as "my brother-in-law" in some conversations. He is, after all, my niece's father.

    My family also has the tradition of the children calling close friends of the parents as "Uncle This" and "Aunt That". If asked what the relationship is, they're "relatives by affection."

    My stepsons and my daughter refer to each other as "brother" and "sister" — none of this "half-" stuff. I wish there was a word for the relationship between my stepchildren's mother and myself. "Friend" is (happily for us) accurate but not sufficient in the context of explaining our relationship, especially now that there are grandchildren in the picture.

  44. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 4:47 am

    Charles: You're misremembering. A stepbrother is a demi-frère. A stepparent can be a beau-père or belle-mère in addition to a father/mother-in-law.

    I have had both a stepfather and a stepsister and my French-English lagged several years in listing the two meanings of beau-père (I only learnt about step- years later). This lead to some… awkward exchanges with my English teachers.

  45. MikeyC said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 6:19 am

    I've alway called the man who is married to my wife's sister "brother-in-law".

  46. MikeyC said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 6:21 am

    broth·er-in-law (brr-n-lô)
    n. pl. broth·ers-in-law (brrz-)
    1. The brother of one's spouse.
    2. The husband of one's sister.
    3. The husband of the sister of one's spouse.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/brother-in-law

  47. Max said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 7:14 am

    I've always interpreted "brother-in-law" as being a reference to a law (or tradition), where marriage is a form of siblinghood: in the same tradition, one might refer to ones spouse's parents as mom and dad (I think it was Mr Bones that played on this with "I'm not your pa YET"). Since siblinghood is transitive, siblinghood-in-law should also be.

  48. ellis said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 7:22 am

    I'm from the U.K., and had never thought the extended use of 'brother-in-law' anything but standard. My father and my ex-uncle are now ex-brothers-in-law, which sounds perfectly fine to my ear (as does the fact that I am now an ex-step-uncle six times over).

  49. David Marjanović said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 7:23 am

    Schwippschwager/-schwägerin is restricted to northern Germany.

  50. only asking said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 7:49 am

    I too use the extended version, and I too am uncomfortable with it. (For the record, I live in England, but was raised until aged 8 in the USA, with a US mother.)

    The English language is weak on these relationships: the phrase "first (/second/third/nth) cousin once removed", for example, unwieldy as it is, has dual reference (to the child of one's first (/2nd/etc.) cousin, and also to the child of one's great (x n) uncle or aunt (i.e. to one's parent's first (etc.) cousin).

    My Sri Lankan friend appears to refer to all relations of more or less her generation as 'cousins'; those of her parents' generation as 'aunts' or 'uncles'; and anyone younger as a 'niece' or 'nephew'. This applies to in-laws as well — perhaps even to the in-law-in-laws. This is easy at one level, but makes constructing kinship trees nigh impossible, since the way in which someone qualifies as a cousin or whatever seems almost to cease to matter once they have qualified.

    Is the English language approach (of loose definition) a slightly stronger version of what I have described for Sri Lanka? Can we assume that relations are only made succinct and highly exclusive where it is important, culturally or financially? Thus mother and father tend to be pretty closely defined (so we now have birth-father, for example, as well as step- and foster-, as well as -in-law). And the religious use of Father and Brother gains its power from its encroachment on that. Whereas the relative status of one's third cousin twice removed packs little emotional or monetary punch.

  51. Morgan said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 8:00 am

    My families on both sides – American with origins in the Midwest and NYC – also use the extended definition of brother-in-law, and it never occurred to me to doubt that it applied (I assumed the same legal/conceptual definition as Max did).

    In fact, since marrying into a Swedish-speaking Finnish family I've had a great deal of trouble describing the extended familial relationships in a community described as a "duck pond" where I frequently need to refer to my brother-in-law's wife, her siblings and their spouses, her cousins and nieces and nephews, her step-father and his children. Although Swedish does not allow this usage – it would be "svärbrors svärbror" (brother-in-law's brother-in-law) for someone with whom I socialize a good deal; my wife's brother's wife is her sister-in-law, but she is my "svärbrors fru". That's just too much of a mouthful. I eventually gave up and started just applying brother-in-law and sister-in-law the way I would in English; it doesn't impede communication, though it does occasionally draw a correction.

  52. Mary Kuhner said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 8:35 am

    I have two half-siblings, and we lived together for a while as adults; thus we are very close to each others' spouses, and that relationship is close to "sibling" in intensity.

    I have a relationship with the spouses' siblings, but it's much more distant. I am reluctant to call them brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, but have no other words that fit at all. I have a somewhat closer relationship with the spouses' parents, and for that I definitely have no word; they are not my parents-in-law.

    I also have a step-stepmother; that term doesn't seem right, but step-mother is awkward because then there's no way to distinguish the step-parent who raised me from the one who I didn't meet until late adulthood.

    To add to the confusion–English really is poor on relationship terms–I have some kind of relationship with my adopted child's parent and sibling, but no word for it.

    Interestingly, from that child's point of view, the siblings, siblings' spouses, and their siblings are all "uncle/aunt". My family is very free with that term; I have uncles/aunts whom I didn't learn until adulthood weren't related to me at all.

  53. Frans said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 8:36 am

    In (my) Dutch, the extended usage of in-laws applies as well. I always considered the English usage of in-laws equivalent, and my wife (who's from Chicagoland) says that her usage is exactly the same. She said she thinks it's almost ridiculous that you wouldn't consider someone who is a member of your family your in-law. Our discussion continued along the lines of family that's further away neither of us really knew what kind of terms to apply. Technically it's "cousin," but that doesn't feel quite right, but "cousin's husband" sounds so cold.

  54. MattF said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 8:52 am

    No one's mentioned Yiddish– although I'll take it for granted that everyone commenting here has some knowledge of it– where machatunim refers to 'distant' in-laws.

  55. Marion said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 9:22 am

    Like Frans I'm Dutch, and I consider my husband's sister's boyfriend my brother-in-law. Not specifically because I know that's how it's done, but because it seems the best description. Certainly easier than 'my husband's sister's boyfriend', or in the event that they marry, 'my husband's sister's husband'. In that vein, I called her sister-in-law even before I married my husband.*

    (Her boyfriend is also my ex boyfriend's brother, so we could be considered to be in-laws from two directions… and my ex is now my brother-in-law, too.)

    As for further removed relatives, I don't make a distinction between actual relatives and their spouses. My uncle and his wife are simply my aunt and uncle. All my cousins are a bit too young for girlfriends and marriage, so I'm not sure what I'd do with them.

    *Incidentally, in Dutch the words are even shorter: 'schoonbroer' for brother-in-law and 'schoonzus' for sister-in-law. Also, the 'law' component is less evident in the Dutch word. Though I don't know the etymology here.

  56. SB said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 9:41 am

    Like in Portuguese, Spanish has the same thing. "Regular" brothers-in-law are "cuñados", and the "co-brothers-in-law" are "concuños". And in Spanish (and I see it more commonly in English these days), we also use the terms "aunt" and "uncle" a bit more freely (your parents friends can sometimes be your uncles or aunts). As for cousins, I am still confused by the first, second removed idea. "Fraternal cousins" (primos hermanos) when you want to be emphatic or just "cousins" (primos) is used between the children of siblings, but "primos" can also be used for "second cousins" (between children of cousins)… Then again, extended families tend to stay in close touch, so people tend to know each other and it is usually clear who is your first cousin and who is a second cousin.

  57. kip said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    I'll do you one better: I call my wife's sisters' husbands my brother-in-laws. :)

  58. Mr Punch said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 9:47 am

    I and my family use the broader sense of "brother-in-law" (e.g., for my wife's sister's husband) though at least some of us are aware that it's "technically wrong."

    As for "co-": A woman I know complains that her family tree is horizontal, because of the multiple divorces/marriages in her parents' generation. She has an exact contemporary whom she calls her "co-sister" because although they are not related they have a half-sister in common.

    The lack of an English term for co-parents-in-law is a problem, I'm finding.

  59. Swingebreech said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 9:51 am

    In Spanish the term is "concuñado". In Texan, like any other vague familial relationship, it's "kin".

  60. dwmacg said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 10:15 am

    NS here, grew up in MA but most of my family's from upstate NY. Using brother-in-law for Edward and Michael sounds odd to me, but that might be because I've rarely had any reason to refer to such a relationship (or hear others refer to one). Concuñado/a exists in Spanish, although I think I'd refer to my brother-in-law's wife simply as mi cuñada.

    Another nice term that Spanish has that English lacks is consuegro/a (roughly "co-father/mother-in-law") to refer to the parents-in-law of your child.

  61. marie-lucie said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    Jean-Sébastien: "A stepbrother is a demi-frère."

    Non. Charles is right. A stepbrother or stepsister, like a stepparent, has no genetic relationship with you but "steps into" the role. A half-brother or -sister (demi-frère ou demi-soeur) shares one parent with you, their other parent being your stepparent. In the story of Cendrillon (Cinderella), the parents each have offspring from previous marriages, so Cendrillon has two belles-soeurs (stepsisters), whose mother is her belle-mère (stepmother).

    The reason for the same designation (with beau/belle) for step-relatives and in-laws is that several centuries ago the adjective was used for politeness: you would address your own father as Père but your father in law or stepfather as Beau père, and similarly with other persons added to your original family through marriage, but not genetically related to it.

  62. George said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 10:38 am

    How far 'family' extends is an interesting question in all sorts of ways and getting it wrong can be problematic. My Iranian mother-in-law (living in the same city as my wife and me) was deeply offended not to be invited to my brother's wedding. She had only met him a couple of times and he lived in another country; it simply didn't cross my brother's mind that she could be considered part of his family. Misunderstandings of this sort, of course, may well have have contributed to my less than perfect relationship with my mother-in-law, which in turn may have contributed to the fact that she has been my ex-mother-in-law for some time now…

  63. George said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    BTW, @Ellis (7.22 am), what is an ex-uncle?

  64. ellis said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 10:46 am

    @George

    My mother's sister's ex-husband.

  65. George said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 11:01 am

    @Ellis, yes, obvious now you've explained it. Must be tired. And that's another case where languages differ considerably. My ex-wife (and I assume Farsi speakers in general) didn't use the term 'uncle' to describe that relationship: it would heve been 'my aunt's husband'.

  66. Anya said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

    I have assumed it was standard, ever since reading Pride & Prejudice as a teenager (when I was struck by the fact that the term apparently applied):

    "But it was a hope shortly checked by other considerations, and she soon felt that even her vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his affection for her — for a woman who had already refused him — as able to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against relationship with Wickham. Brother-in-law of Wickham! Every kind of pride must revolt from the connection." Chapter X of Volume III

  67. kip said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

    @George really "aunt's husband" instead of "uncle"? Uncle is definitely the standard name for that relationship. If there is a need to specify that he's not a blood relative, I would say "uncle by marriage."

  68. Kimberly said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

    I'm with you. My husband's sister is my sister-in-law, but her husband is either my husband's brother-in-law or my sister-in-law's husband, but he has no named relationship to me

  69. Army1987 said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

    For some reason, I can pronounce [ɬl] more easily than just [ɬ].

  70. Jay Lake said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

    This is the same problem as describing my cousins' cousins on the far side of the marriage chain – ie, my father's brother's wife's sisters kids.

  71. Mr Fnortner said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

    I find the brother-in-law relationship too distant, and refer to all such relatives by the marital relationship of the nearest in-law: my sister-in-law's husband is one case. I don't quite know what to do with my sister's husband's brother (my brother-in-law's brother) for example. I suppose he's just "some guy I know."

  72. Bill Walderman said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

    Re: Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act. This was apparently a long-standing issue. There's a reference in Iolanthe (Gilbert & Sullivan) to "that annual blister,/Marriage with deceased wife's sister."

    Re: Russian in-law kinship terms. sv'okor' (husband's father): The etymological analogue in ancient Greek was hekuros (from swekuros, with aspiration of sigma and loss of digamma), also meaning "husband's father." Helen addresses Priam as "phile hekure," "my dear brother-in-law," at Iliad 3.172. The -e of "phile," although short, scans as a long syllable because at some earlier stage of the language it was followed by the two consonants sw- of "swekure." And the etymological parallel to "dever'" was "da(w)e:r," also "husband's brother." Iliad 6.344–Helen to Hektor.

  73. Baylink said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

    Katharine said:
    > It would not be as interesting had the double cousins not married each other and had a child!

    So, how'd that work out for them, genetically?

  74. Sili said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

    I'm not sure I'd use it, myself, but it seems to be standard in Danish:

    man, who is brother to one's spouse, is married to one's sister or is married to the sister of one's spouse

    Interestingly the language isn't genderneutral despite Denmark having civil unions irrespective of sex.

  75. Stephen said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    One more "native speaker for whom this is correct usage" chiming in.

  76. Gaston said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

    While Frans en Marion are certainly right that the extended usage is common in Dutch (though unlike Marion, I would much prefer 'zwager' to 'schoonbroer'), I have always felt something's not quite right there. Therefore, I tend to refer, although jokingly, to my sister's spouse as my 'achterzwager', which would translate as 'second brother-in-law' or 'brother-in-law once removed'. And I like the guy, so it's purely a language thing.

  77. Aviatrix said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

    To me, in Canada, all the siblings of ones spouse and their respective spouses are brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law, as are the spouses of all ones siblings. I'm now trying to decide if my brother's wife's brother or my brother's wife's brother's wife is a sister-in-law and conclude that I would consider it a stretch, but not an egregious one.

    I'm willing to accept that if X is Y's sister-in-law and Y is Z's brother-in-law, then X is Z's sister-in-law. Certainly everyone who is related to ones spouse by blood, marriage or adoption is an "in-law" of some sort.

    And when the couple in question is not married, then you have a brother or sister "in-common-law".

  78. Jenno said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

    Count one more for the 'in-law-in-law' usage (in conversation and casual correspondence). I don't ever recall anyone questioning what I meant by that; I believe they intuited the extra step of separation I intended to convey. It's not that I think a single 'in-law' is wrong for a relationship that extends further — I just have a strong internal need to be precise. My husband and I both have many siblings, including a brother Tom apiece, so confusion-avoidance triumphs over intimacy.

    It also helps that my husband's name is mono-syllabic, so it's just as easy and fast for me to say "Chip's brother-in-law," instead of "my," when I mean his sister's husband.

    Of all the non-English familial terms mentioned here, my vote for incorporation is the one for the parents of one's children-in-law. That's a significant relationship among my kin.

  79. Bobbie said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

    As an amateur genealogist, this has lots of implications. For instance, my father was sharing an apartment with a "cousin" in the 1930 census (they were both medical students) but there is absolutely no one who can tell us how the two young men were related! Or if they were related at all!
    As for in-laws, I called my son's fiancee my DIL-BE. (daughter-in-law to be)

  80. Jens Fiederer said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

    Although I might not count, not being a native speaker, I'm pretty sure my wife's family DOES – and all 3 of her sisters have American brothers that call me brother-in-law (and I reciprocate).

  81. Bill Poser said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

    This is interesting. It seems that quite a few English speakers do have the extended usage of brother-in-law. On the other hand, there are some people with the narrower usage that I have. This seems to be reinforced by the coinage of "co-brother-in-law", which would not be necessary if the broader usage were universal.

    This makes me wonder about "cousin". The question is, is my cousin's wife my cousin? My own judgment is that she is not, and all of the (fairly small number of) people I have asked about this agree with me. I wonder if those who extend "brother-in-law" to include "co-brother-in-law" also consider a cousin's wife to be a cousin?

  82. Simon Cauchi said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

    The daughter of my wife's first cousin stayed with us recently. So I suppose she was her first cousin once removed. But we found it easier to explain the relationship by saying she was "Uncle Norman's granddaughter". The family know Uncle Norman well, and so in that way our new guest slotted into the family tree quite nicely.

    She was also our own sons' second cousin, but we never used that term. Nor did we try to define what her "in law" relationship to me might be.

  83. Bill Walderman said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

    "The question is, is my cousin's wife my cousin? My own judgment is that she is not, and all of the (fairly small number of) people I have asked about this agree with me."

    I agree. I don't have any relationship with another human being such that I would call him or her my wife's sister's husband or my wife's brother's wife, but could the explanation for the apparently widespread use of the terms brother/sister-in-law for those relationships be explained by the awkwardness of "wife's sister's husband," "wife's brother's wife," "husband's brother's wife," and "husband's sister's husband?" "Cousin's husband/wife" isn't quite as awkward.

  84. Haukur Þorgeirsson said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

    The Icelandic words are 'svili' (m.) and 'svilkona' (f.).

  85. mdl said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

    I'm a lifelong Pacific Coast resident, and to me the usage feels wrong. That said, I have at times referred to my wife's brother's wife as "sister-in-law" for lack of any better term, but always while doing so I was consciously feeling that it was technically not true.

    Now that I have been introduced to the wonderfully euphonious "schwippschwägerin" I look forward to using it!

  86. Terry Collmann said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    My wife's family (Irish) use the "restricted" sense of brother-in-law, but my family (English) use the "Jane Austen" broader sense. I've never come across the idea that a cousin's wife/husband could also be regarded as a cousin.

  87. Bill Walderman said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

    As a follow-up to my previous comment, in American society the distinction between wife's sister's husband and wife's brother isn't particularly significant and, I suspect, doesn't normally justify the mental effort needed to sort out the relationships in casual conversation. I wonder whether in traditional Carrier society (and other societies where different terms for the relationships are used), there are differences in the mutual rights and obligations that arise out of the different relationships and make it important to observe the distinction.

  88. Matt said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

    Just one more in support of finding this to be a natural usage of "brother-in-law". In fact, on reading it, I was surprised that others would not consider referring to the relationship as such.

  89. Bill Walderman said,

    November 20, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

    On second thought, "cousin" seems to refer only to relatives by blood (or adoption). "In-laws" are relatives by marriage. I wonder whether some–maybe the majority–of English speaker are willing to refer to their spouses' in-laws (other than their own parents and siblings, of course) as their own in-laws because their own in-laws don't enjoy any special legal or social relationship to themselves vis-a-vis their spouses' in-laws, and, ultimately, it's just easier and more convenient to lump all those who are related to themselves by marriage together, instead of sorting out the fine distinctions, especially in casual conversations.

  90. Neil Dolinger said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 12:33 am

    @Melissa K Fox
    "I have occasionally suggested that she be called my sister-in-law-in-law, but this is obviously a nonce form."

    I dunno, I use this construction often to refer to the spouses of my sister-in-law's siblings. Everyone seems to get the meaning without any explanation!

  91. Kenny Easwaran said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 3:19 am

    I would recognize that the most standard usage of "sibling-in-law" is for a spouse's sibling or a sibling's spouse, but I would also extend it to a spouse's sibling's spouse. However, it doesn't seem right to extend it to a sibling's spouse's sibling. I think that's because spousehood is normally a much closer relationship than siblinghood, at least for adults in the United States. Two siblings will occasionally meet up, and it will be very natural to bring their spouses. However, there don't seem to be as many events where both spouses of a couple will happen to bring their siblings.

  92. GAC said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 6:41 am

    I would probably use "brother-in-law" for this situation, though judging from past conversations about relationship terms, I think I have some family members who would disagree.

    Thinking about this prompted me to look up the term in Chinese. HanHeDict gives 连襟 for Schwippschwager and nciku confirms that definition, though I wonder how common it is and how recent, given that most Chinese relationship terms put emphasis on the paternal line.

  93. ellis said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 7:28 am

    I've just noticed that Dickens uses 'Scrooge's niece' to refer to what is technically Scrooge's nephew's wife.

  94. Mr Fnortner said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

    We seem to be having such fun at this that it feels fair to bring up spouses of parents. Is one's parent's new spouse just spouse, or step-parent? As an adult child, this is a conundrum. Is my father's new wife a step-mother or simply his wife? And why?–either way. As a minor child one is almost forced to accept what the adult parent determines, but this is not the case as an adult child.

  95. ellis said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    Without mentioning what my wife has: a step-mother-in-law…

  96. Frans said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

    Marion, you're Dutch and you use "schoonbroer" instead of "zwager?" Might I ask where you're from? The word seems common here in Antwerpen, but, while I knew of its existence, I never heard it in actual use before I moved here.

    Incidentally, in Dutch the words are even shorter: 'schoonbroer' for brother-in-law and 'schoonzus' for sister-in-law. Also, the 'law' component is less evident in the Dutch word. Though I don't know the etymology here.

    I'd say that the relevant component in Dutch is expressed as "by marriage" (aangetrouwde familie). In a more modern context that is equivalent to by law, but marriage didn't use to have legal precedents and ramifications.

    @Gaston: according to an unsourced statement on Dutch Wikipedia, in North-Brabant "zwager" means brother-in-law as sister's husband and "schoonbroer" means brother of sister's husband and the like as well.

    On another note, my mother-in-law's family uses uncle, aunt, etc. without any further specification (they're mostly from Michigan). I can only guess at the layers of separation from me (as an in-law) through age, but the important part is that it doesn't really matter to them anyway from what I can tell. All of them on mother- and father-in-law's side (from Illinois) refer to me as their cousin, not as cousin's husband or something like that. If they wanted to be very clear whom they're referring to they'd just use my name, or possibly my wife's name's husband. On my father-in-law's side bubby (grandmother) got passed down through several generations and that's what my wife calls her, even though that's not what she is to her.

  97. PhilipK said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

    In Greek, gambros is 1. bridegroom; 2. brother-in-law (sister's husband); 3. son-in-law. (In senses 2 & 3, he has married into your family.)
    ni(m)fi is, correspondingly, bride; sister-in-law (brother's wife) and daughter-in-law.
    kouniados is brother-in-law (wife's brother).
    simpetheroi are the "co-inlaws", i.e. this denotes the relationship between the parents of the husband and wife.

  98. Ken Brown said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 12:11 am

    Bill Walderman said: "…could the explanation for the apparently widespread use of the terms brother/sister-in-law for those relationships be explained by the awkwardness of "wife's sister's husband," [etc.]"

    Almost certainly not. Kinship terms never work that simply! And anthropologists have spent much of the last century or so building and demolishing all sorts of wonderful theories based on them.

    Plenty of languages have all sorts of other categories where we only have this one. It is a bit odd, for a start, that we use the same name for a spouse's sibling and a sibling's spouse – two quite different relationships. Lots of people don't. Its also odd that we use the same names for relatives on our mother's and our father's side. Lots of people don't.

    Adding to the piles of anecdote this post has already accquired, in my idiolect "cousin". like "brother" and "sister" is I think only a blood relationship.

    When I was young I don't think I knew which of my aunts and uncles were my parent's siblings, and which their sibling's spuoses. Which probably says a lot about English kinship system. But then we also called some non-relatives of our parent's generation "auntie" as a courtesy – something I suspect was marginal and dying out even then. And there were some elderly women on both sides of our family who were "aunt" or "aunty" to all family members of younger generations except their own descendents

  99. Aaron Davies said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 12:56 am

    re double cousins: i've been told that there was a double-cousin setup three or four generations back in my father's family, complete with a thwarted (and illegal, iirc, at least in the state where they were living at the time) romance between the cousins in question.

    btw, istr reading that at one point, english (ecclesiastical, presumably) law prevented double-cousins from occuring by prohibiting marrying one's extended-sense sibling-in-law.

  100. Aaron Davies said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 12:56 am

    re kinship systems in general, istr a study of australian aboriginal societies that found that kinship-system complexity increased as you got further inland. (what reason, if any, they determined for this pattern escapes me.)

  101. Aaron Davies said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 1:06 am

    for the record, i have no personal experience of these terms, as neither my brother nor sister are married. i come from a fairly traditional "nuclear" family, and have never lived less than about 500 miles from the nearest relatives outside my immediate family, and so have never need much kinship vocabulary. at least two of my cousins are married, but i've never met their spouses, and haven't thought about how to refer to them. on (minimal) reflection, i'd probably just say "X's husband". (i'm not sure if any of my cousins on my father's side are married, which says something about how close i am to them.)

    my mother refers to an unrelated close friend of her mother's as an aunt, and passed the usage on to us.

    my father has a fairly large extended family, but they're all in california (i've spent most of my life in the midwest or on the east coast), and i don't think i've met any of them more than twice. my grandmother knew the full family tree, and who was what degree of cousin at what removal, but she was probably the only one.

  102. montgomery said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 3:38 am

    @ Rubrick
    Nepali has six distinct terms for brother-in-law: binaju, older sister's husband; jwai, younger sister's husband; jetaan, wife's older brother; salaa, wife's younger brother; jetaju, husband's older brother; dewar, husband's younger brother.

    They also have terms for the relationship between the husbands of two sisters: sadu-daai, wife's older sister's husband; sadu-bhaai, wife's younger sister's husband.

    You'd think, for the sake of completeness, they'd have terms for husband's sister's husband, but they don't seem to; they refer to husband's older sister's husband as daai (big brother) and husband's younger sister's husband as bhaai (little brother).

    The situation is equivalent for sister-in-law: six terms for sister-in-law and two for the wives of two brothers but no specific words for wife's brother's wife.

  103. Bill Walderman said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 9:21 am

    @Ken Brown: My suggestion is not just that "wife's sister's husband" (or even "wife's brother-in-law") is awkward and calls for some mental effort both on the part of the speaker and on the part of the listener to parse through the relationship–it's also that in contemporary societies in which English is the dominant language, there aren't any practical consequences to the distinction between someone's spouse's brother and their spouse's sister's spouse, and it's just easier to refer to both as "brother-in-law." I suspect that in societies where the distinction does make a difference, the terms are less likely to be conflated.

    What seems odd to me is that "aunt" and "uncle" don't seem to require a blood relationship (in fact, I have a close friend whose adult kids still call me "uncle") but "cousin" does.

  104. Katherine said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

    @ Baylink (November 20, 2009 @ 1:51 pm):

    Well they are directly above me in my 'family tree', and I'm still here. No genetic weirdness on that side of the family as far as I'm aware.

    @ Mr Fnortner (November 21, 2009 @ 12:14 pm):

    One of my friends calls both his birth mother and his step-mother "mom", he basically treats them both the same as his father remarried so early on in his life. If my parents divorced and remarried, I (as an adult), would simply refer to them as my parent's spouse. They aren't really a step-parent unless they help with the parenting (for better or worse) in my mind.

    Additionally, on extended family in general, I have had to explain second cousins vs first cousins once removed at least twice to my family. But then once it gets that complicated it would be preferable to use some NZ slang and just call everyone beyond immediate family "cuz" (short for cousin) or "cuzzie bro". Much simpler.

  105. nbm said,

    November 22, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

    On whether your cousin's spouse is your cousin: In order to indicate that I felt close to my cousin's husband and considered him part of the family, I often called him "cousin," which could cause a little hitch a sentence or two later when I had to note that his wife was also my cousin, and in fact was my "real' cousin. (Of course there was no such difficulty in calling him "cousin" at a family gathering.) In any case, it did feel like a specific choice, not an inevitable title.

    Once I went with my then-boyfriend to the wedding of his stepbrother (the son of his father's second wife), where I met his stepmother's first husband's second wife. What's my relationship to her? Or to the children of her first marriage?

    (I have no siblings & no spouse so have not had to tangle with the sibling-in-law issue except to observe that it is confusingly unspecific.)

  106. Nathan said,

    November 23, 2009 @ 12:10 am

    Lets assume that Jane marries Bob. What is the relationship between Jane's parents and Bob's parents called in English? There's a word for it in Cambodian.

  107. Simon Cauchi said,

    November 23, 2009 @ 1:21 am

    @ nbm: Once I went with my then-boyfriend to the wedding of his stepbrother (the son of his father's second wife), where I met his stepmother's first husband's second wife. What's my relationship to her? Or to the children of her first marriage?

    None. They are among your acquaintance, not kin.

  108. Graeme said,

    November 23, 2009 @ 1:45 am

    This usage isn't unfamiliar in Australia; though it's also loose enough to be ambiguous.

    Oddly, though I use the term myself, of others, I'd not think of myself in return as a 'brother in law' to them.

  109. Shannon said,

    November 23, 2009 @ 6:38 am

    I use in-law this way all the time: my husband is my brother's wife's brother-in-law. My entire family (Californians vis the Midwest) also uses in-law this way and it never occured to me that it was unusual.

    However, we tend to be liberal in our grouping of relatives in our close family, so I call many people "aunts," "uncles," and "cousins" who are actually more distantly related, but I could tell you their more exact relationship if required.

  110. Jenno said,

    November 23, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

    @Nathan: There isn't one. But now that I know other languages have them, I want one too!

    @Kenny Easwaran: "there don't seem to be as many events where both spouses of a couple will happen to bring their siblings" — you haven't been to my husband's family's gatherings.

    I suspect this sort of thing only comes up in areas, or among families, where grown children do not move away, and where they marry other people from the same town whose extended families are also local. I think this explains my wish for a greater number of precise terms because it's hell trying to introduce the boyfriends/girlfriends of the members of the youngest generation to all the people in the room.

  111. Gregg said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 12:34 am

    My wife's sister's husband is a racist. I have never thought of him as a brother-in-law, even though I like him despite the fact we have nothing in common and nothing to talk about on Thanksgiving Day.

    Now, my sister's husband's brother, on the other hand, is a cool guy who has offered my daughter a job in the film industry. What do I call him?

    See, it all revolves around self-interest, because my American language does not offer me any useful kinship markers. "Cousin" seems to be a nice all-purpose word in some languages, as I understand it.

  112. Marion said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 9:11 am

    @ Frans: I'm from Zeeland. Given its close proximity to Belgium that's probably where I picked it up. Now that I moved further north I do hear "zwager" a lot more, but my own preference is still "schoonbroer". Partly because it makes a better matching set with "schoonzus" than "zwager" does, in my opinion.

  113. Rachel Cotterill said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

    I would use brother-in-law in this context (I'm a native speaker of British English but have a mixture of dialects in my linguistic makeup, so I couldn't say precisely where I've got it from).

  114. Greg Kochanski said,

    November 24, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

    You should look up "I'm my own Grandpa" on Youtube.com. It describes a legal (but somewhat odd) family with a loop. Just you try to figure out what to call your sister's brother-in-law then!

  115. memo said,

    November 28, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

    @Rubrick:

    In Turkish, there are all sorts of designations, which, having grown up in Germany, I never mastered myself. But here's what my mum could tell me:

    my spouse's sibling:

    my husband's brother – kayın
    my wife's brother – kayın
    my husband's sister – görümce
    my wife's sister – baldız

    my sibling's spouse:

    my brother's wife – yenge
    my sister's husband – enişte

    my spouse's sibling's spouse:

    my husband's brother's wife – elti
    my wife's brother's wife – ??? (we think she'd be called yenge as well, but we're not quite sure)
    my husband's sister's husband – enişte
    my wife's sister's husband – bacanak

  116. Daan said,

    December 3, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

    @Frans/Marion,
    Native speaker of Dutch from North-Brabant here: I don't think I've ever used "schoonbroer" in my life. I might have heard it, but when I first read Marion's post, I thought I'd never seen that word. I would safely describe them all as "zwagers" for want of a better term. But I think there's probably going to be a lot of individual variation. Funny how everyone seems to have had this discussion with family members at some point.

  117. Clarissa said,

    December 7, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

    It doesn't happen often enough for me to have ever used it seriously in reference to someone else, but it is an expected usage for me–if one of my good friends were to marry my husband's brother, I would be excited at the prospect of her becoming my sister-in-law.

  118. Drago said,

    December 29, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

    There is a word for "co-brothers-in-law" in Bulgarian:

    badzhanak (pl. badzhanatsi)

    Some translations are listed in

    http://bg.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%B1%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%B6%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BA

    in Dutch, German, and Serbocroatian

  119. Emily Clay said,

    April 1, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

    OK, I have been trying to figure our the correct name for the relationship with my cousins who are…let's see how to explain it more quickly…my dad's brother and my mom's sister married (2 brothers and 2 sisters). In some references we are called double-cousins, but other references consider this to be the name for a child conceived incestuously which is certainly not the case here! We could also be double-first cousins, but that still leaves some doubt, I think. Is there any other name for us? According to Wikkipedia, we are 25% related vs. 12 1/2 of regular cousins, but that is also debateable according to genetisists. Does anyone here have another name for us?

  120. Pop Vox said,

    October 2, 2011 @ 3:58 am

    My wife and I moved to the West Coast many years ago where we made the acquaintanceship of a particular young man named Ben.

    As all of our in-laws (both hers and mine) were then still living on the East Coast, there was no way that we could have foreseen that Ben (through no agency of ours) was destined to become my "brother-in-law's brother-in-law's son-in-law's son-in-law."

    I am not aware of a convenient word to describe this relationship; but, in a text message, I guess we could call him BIL2 SIL2 or, simply, Ben.

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