Gujarati Titles

Family Wedding

My Dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,

Am I going to start everyone on a giggling session? Only asking because I am going to introduce a few new Gujarati words today. Dad and I had to have a consulting session with each other for some of the relations’ titles. Happens often as we tend not to speak so much Gujarati in our everyday conversations. There is lately a fear that many regional languages of the world will disappear! Rest assured Gujarati is not one of them. All the more reason for you to know more! Here are some of your giggling initiators: fumtu(ફૂમતુ) and fuvaro(ફુવારો); chhinkni(છીંકણી) and chatako(ચટાકો); thappad(થપ્પડ) and thappi(થપ્પી); dhumaadi(ધુમાડી) and dhummas(ધુમ્મસ); and, and, and. Enough for a good laugh?

In this letter I have decided to demystify some of the titles we have for the different relatives. It all gets more confusing as the title changes for each individual. Please find below three charts , one for  titles that YOU would use, one for MYSELF and one for DAD.

Titles for Your Relations
Titles for Your Relations

As per all rules, there are exceptions to this chart. In some Gujarati communities, mother’s parents are referred to as Nana(નાના) and Nani(નાની)…hopefully by now, you will know which title belongs to which gender. Dad’s older brother too can be differentiated by using the title Ada(અદા). With the western influence, mum/mummy has replaced Ba for mother and dad has replaced Bapuji for father. Our own family idiosyncrasy is using the title Dadaji (pappaji for my generation) for Dad’s father!

A universal rule that confuses many is that all cousins are treated as brothers or sisters. And to complicate it even further, all acquaintances and strangers  are addressed as Masi or Kaka or Bhai or Bahen, depending on the age! Again western influence has replaced the Masi and Kaka with Aunty and Uncle respectively. These are great examples of ‘Lost in Translation’, one reason why Dad and I cringe when you refer to our friends by their first names and not Uncle and Aunt! (Of course the western logic is: BUT they are no relation of ours! Also the western form of respect is to use the titles Mr and Mrs.)

My Relations
My Relations

There are many new terms in this chart for you, can you tell me why?

Dad's Relations
Dad’s Relations

Another term that I could not include here is jamai: that is what Dad is to my mum. Another unusual term for son-in-law is Patel!

It is very important to show respect using the right title when addressing relations: irrespective of age.  I remember the time when my bhabhi, Minabhabhi(mami to you) joined our household after her marriage. She  was  in her early 20’s. She immediately started addressing Sangimasi as  Sangibahen even though Sangimasi was all of 2 years old. Meenabhabhi being the eldest daughter-in-law of the eldest son of an extended family addressed a huge string of brothers and sisters with the bhai and bahen addendum! And she does that to this day. Over 50 years on! In contrast when I got married, and with my notion of being this modern woman, started addressing relations on a personal basis rather than adding the ‘bhai’ and bahen to their names.  I was totally lectured upon for forgetting the decorum. My poor mother would have been so ashamed, she: the pinnacle of upholding family rituals always doing the right thing.  મારુ નામ ખરાબ કર્યું.(Maru naam kharab karyu)! I guess you all would deem this as old-fashioned and perhaps earlier I did  too. Now though I feel these rituals nurture more respect and love between individuals.

As usual I cannot resist a Quiz here:

  1. How many sets of Foi/Fuva, Kaka/Kaki, Mama/Mami and Masa/Masi do you have?
  2. Who is my Nanand?
  3. Who is dad’s Sado and Sadi?

To keep you engaged in this quiz and letter, I shall keep the questionnaire short! Do give me elaborate answers, let me see how deep your family knowledge pool is.

Another piece of homework you can do is to read up my latest recipe for Bateta Wada (બટેટા વડા) so that we can do them when we next get together. In the meantime you can practise making the green chutney that goes perfectly with the wadas.

I am not too fond of deep-frying, but it is the most popular Indian taste. This popularity is very evident in the street stalls of India. My biggest worry is the age of the oil in which these snacks are fried in. Generally, one batch of oil should not be used more than 3 times.

While looking for the main image, I came across a series of photos taken after this moment. There were at least 5 more shots with 2 new relatives added per shot, including Kiritmasa and Nalinimasi . Photos are such timeless treasures.

And that is all for today.

Missing you all and hoping for all the best that life can offer you, loads of love, hugs and kisses,

Vishfully yours,


6 thoughts on “Gujarati Titles”

  1. All correct Anjli. Amazing that you thought of Mukundkaka, even though he passed away long before you were born. His spirits and achievements are still talked about after all these years. You ask about other distinctions in relation titles, but nothing comes to mind at the moment. Looking forward to spending time with you soon.

  2. Hi mum! Sorry for the late reply to your latest letter, as you know I was in London for a quintessentially British wedding (even though neither the bride nor the groom were British)!

    My answers to your questions:
    1. 2,0.5 (although I never had the pleasure of meeting my Kaka, he ofcourse counts as 1/2 the kaka/kaki combo!),2,1
    2. Dakshafoi and Pratibhafoi? Is there a distinction for younger nanand and older nanand?
    3. Sados (lol another funny Gujarati word) would be Atishmama and Neshmama and Sadi would be Achalamasi?

    Your chart shows a distinction bw motabhai and nanabhai for dad (jeth and diyar for you), are there similar distinctions for the other relations?

    Thanks for the recipes, let’s do batetawada when you’re here in a couple months!


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