Armenian Language Corner

Dealing with In-Laws (2)

As we said in our last column, the English language deals in an easy way with relatives by the use of “in-law.” This indicates that some of the kinship terms common to Indo-European languages were lost over time, as in other sister languages too.

The Armenian language has a collection of terms for each “in-law” on both sides of the aisle. We previously discussed the in-laws for the case of fathers and mothers. Now we will deal with brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law:

Brother-in-law (wife’s brother):
աներձագ (anertzak)
Brother-in-law (sister’s husband):
քեռայր (kerayr)
Sister-in-law (wife’s sister): քենի (keni)
Sister-in-law (brother’s wife):
հարս (hars).
Brother-in-law (husband’s brother):
տագր (dakur)
Brother-in-law (sister’s husband):
քեռայր (kerayr)
Sister-in-law (husband’s sister):
տալ (dal)
Sister-in-law (brother’s wife):
հարս (hars)
As you will notice, some of these terms are repeated: the sister’s husband (kerayr) and the brother’s wife (hars) are identified in the same way on both sides. The word kerayr is a compound word: քեռ (ker) derives from քոյր (kooyr “sister”) and այր (ayr) means “husband.” On the other hand, hars is the word for “bride,” which probably indicates that the term for “sister-in-law” was lost in the mist of time.

While other terms like keni, dakur, and dal are specific root words, it is not the same for the groom’s brother-in-law. The word anertzak is compound (aner + tzak): it means “father-in-law’s child.”
We can also throw a couple of more terms in the mix:

a) Groom’s sister-in-law’s husband: քենեկալ (kenegal). Etymologically, it refers to the “sister-in-law’s holder” (keni + gal root of the verb galel “to hold”);
b) Bride’s brother-in-law’s (husband’s brother) wife: ներ (ner).

In the other cases, when you refer to the husband of a sister-in-law, you can use kerayr, and if it is the wife of a brother-in-law, then hars.

Of course, it is not as easy as “brother-in-law” and “sister-in-law,” but at least, when you want to refer to one of your in-laws, if you use the proper term, nobody will get confused about who you are talking about…