The Grammarphobia Blog

Is your grandniece great?

Q: Are the terms “great-niece” and “grandniece” interchangeable? Or are they treated like “grandchild” and “great-grandchild”?

A: A “grandniece” and a “great-niece” (also written “great niece”) are the same. So yes, the terms are interchangeable.

Similarly, a “grandaunt” is the same as a “great-aunt” (also written “great aunt”).

The adjective “great” has as one of its meanings “being one generation removed from the relation specified,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.).

A “grandchild” is the child of one’s son or daughter; a “great-grandchild” is one generation removed from a grandchild.

Similarly, a “grandfather” is the father of one’s father or mother; a “great-grandfather” is one generation beyond that.

Isn’t English grand as well as great?

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