Tata, frangin, papounet: Cute French names for family members

The French language has a variety of words for mother, father, brother or sister and you often hear these in everyday conversations

Find out the affectionate terms used for the whole family, including grandparents

If you listen to a conversation between two French friends who are catching up you may hear one say ‘il va comment ton papa?’ (how is your dad?)

You may be able to easily understand this, but there are other words used to refer to fathers in France that could confuse you. 

Below, we list various ways to talk about or call your family members and give you added context to know which one to use in which situation. 


Père - this is the direct translation of father and is probably the most formal way of referring to your father, although it is still common. When speaking about their parents, most French people will say mon père (my father).

Papa - this is the direct translation of dad and is probably the most common way for children to call their dad at any age. 

Daron - this slang term is exclusively used by the younger generation. It is older than most would assume though, having existed since at least the 18th century. It is thought to be a combination of the words dam, meaning ‘lord’, and baron.

Papounet - this term is not very commonly used but is an affectionate way to say father. It is mostly used in a joking manner. 

Read more: What is date of Father’s Day 2024 in France and how is it celebrated?


Mère - this is the direct translation of mother and is used in exactly the same way as père. Both words come from Latin roots.

Maman - this is the most common way for French people to address their mother. It is famously used in the first line of The Stranger or L’Etranger by Albert Camus: Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. (Maman died today. Or maybe yesterday, I am not sure.)

Daronne - the female version of daron, used in the same way. When referring to parents, someone might say mes darons

Read more: 'Mamie-gâteau', ‘mère courage’ - 12 French expressions about mothers


Frère - this is the French word for brother. It is thought to have appeared in 1100 and is from the latin frater. It is by far the most common way to speak of your brother. 

Frangin - this term is a colloquial term to refer to your brother. It is unclear where it originated from. 

Frèrot - you can also call your brother frérot. This is just a variation of the word frère and is also informal. 

Reuf - this term swaps the syllables at the front and the end of the word frère. It is a slang term, part of the slang language known as ver’lan, and should not be used in a formal context. 

It is worth noting that all of these words are also used to refer to your friends, similarly to English (‘bro’). If you hear someone say ça va mon frère? (how are you my brother?), they might not actually be siblings with the person they are addressing. 

Read more: Try swapping syllables in French words to sound like a native


Sœur - this is the French word for sister and is by far the most common term. Note the spelling of the word: the œ is a double letter, called un e dans l’o (an en in the o), and it is usually pronounced with a slightly more open mouth, although it depends what letters come after. 

Sœurette - this is an affectionate term to refer to your sister. If going to their friend’s house, someone might say ‘ma sœurette peut venir?’ (‘can my sister come?’). Although the ‘-ette’ suffix is mostly used to refer to something smaller, a big sister can be a sœurette.

Frangine - the sisterly version of frangin, this is an affectionate and colloquial term for a sister. 

Reus - this is the ver’lan version of sister. Note that the spelling might not seem like the front and the end of the word are swapped, but this is because the words are only used orally and therefore have no standardised spelling. 


Enfant - this term means child. It originates from latin, infans, which refers to a person who cannot yet speak and then came to mean a five or six year old child. ‘T’as combien d’enfants ?’ means ‘how many children do you have?’

Gosse - this term is probably the closest translation of kid. It mostly refers to a child who is not yet a teenager but can be used more generally. It is an informal term. 

Gamin - while this term generally means a child, it can have negative connotations. If you call someone a gamin, you are saying that they are immature and childish. Gamin is also used to describe street urchins. It is an informal term. 

Pitchoun - this word is from the Occitan language, with pitchoun meaning small. It is used in the south to mean child, although most people in France would know what it means. 

Fiston - An affectionate, informal term for a son. Fistonne is also employed but it is less common. 

Read more: Seven words and phrases from the south of France

The words for son and daughter are fils and fille respectively. 

Of course, when directly addressing your children or grandchildren, you will often use a pet name. These vary from household to household but here are some common examples: mon petit bonhomme (my little guy), mon trésor (my treasure), ma puce (my tick), mon amour (my love), mon choupi (my cutes), mon chaton (my kitten)... 


Grand-mère - this is the direct translation of grandmother and the most common term to refer to your granny. If a French person was speaking to someone they were not related to, they would always say ma grand-mère

Mamie - this is the most common nickname for a grandmother. It is a variant of maman but it is not entirely clear how it came to mean grandmother. When a French person hangs up the phone with their mamie, they are likely to say je t’embrasse Mamie (kisses Mamie). 

Mémé - this variant of mamie is used to refer to grandmothers and old ladies in general. 

Bonne-maman - literally meaning ‘good mum’, this is an old term for grandmothers. If you have been to a French supermarket, you will have seen confiture Bonne-Maman, which is a famous French jam brand. 


Grand-père - this is the direct translation of grandfather. In fact, the English term is directly related to the old French version of grand-père

Papy - this term is the most common term for people to call their grandfathers and likely evolved at the same time as mamie. The two terms are most often used together. 

Pépé - this is the male version of mémé. You will also likely have seen restaurants named Chez pépé.

Bon-papa - this term is less used nowadays but it used to be the more formal version of papy. The terms can also be shortened to bon-ma and bon-pa, especially for young children who may struggle with pronouncing longer sounds. 

Read more: ‘Anglicisms? They are French words we loaned to English after 1066’


Tante - this is the direct translation of aunt. When introducing someone to their aunt, a French person would say ‘je te présente ma tante Véronique’ (‘this is my aunt Véronique’) - of course, this only applies if the aunt’s name is indeed Véronique. 

Tatie/Tata - these terms are affectionate ways to refer to an aunt. They probably evolved from young children not being able to pronounce tante properly.


Oncle - this is the direct translation of uncle. Often, kids will know their aunts and uncles by tante or oncle followed by their name, such as Oncle Gérard and Tante Odile. 

Tonton - this term is the affectionate way to refer to an uncle. It probably originated from a combination of tante and oncle, although its etymology is not entirely clear.