Saturday, July 29, 2017

Why 조카딸 instead of 계집조카 for the word "niece"?

조카 means "nephew," and 딸 means "daughter," so why does 조카딸 mean "niece" instead of "nephew's daughter"?

My Korean dictionary says 조카 is "the son of a brother or sister," and 조카딸 is "the daughter of a brother or sister." There is no word 조카아들 (nephew's son), so it appears Koreans attached "daughter" (딸) to "nephew" (조카) to make the word "niece," more evidence men come first in Korean society. But why did they attach the word "daughter" (딸) instead of "girl" (계집)? Doesn't "girl nephew" (계집조카) make more sense than "nephew's daughter" (조카딸)?

There are two Chinese characters that mean "nephew": 姪 (질) and 甥 (생). The difference between them is 姪 (질) is "the son of a brother," and 甥 (생) is "the son of a sister," which means both can translate as "nephew." My Chinese character dictionary says the word 姪女 (질녀) can translate as "a brother's daughter" (형제의 딸), which means "niece." Moreover, the character 甥 (생) can also mean "brother-in-law" (처남), so the word 甥女 (생녀) literally means "brother-in-law's (甥) daughter (女)," which means she is also "a sister's daughter" or "niece." Therefore, the word 조카딸 seems to come from the Chinese words that mean either brother or brother-in-law's daughter.


  1. Hi Gerry, I was surprised to see that you are still semi-actively updating this blog. Amazing! It's been a very long time since I had an exchange with you (back when the Marmot's Hole was alive and you were a lively commenter there). Just was deligted to see you are still active wanted to say "hi." :)

  2. Thank you, Taemin. Yes, I guess I was pretty active at the Marmot's Hole. Since coming back to the U.S., I have hardly read or posted anything about Korea, but if I ever get any free time, I will probably spend, at least, some of it studying Korea and its language. Once it is in your system, it is hard to get it out.