Abbreviations and Sources

compiled by Michael Dean Murphy for ANT 436 (“Social Structure”)
Last Revision: Fall 2001

Genealogical Abbreviations

B = Brother C = Child(ren) D = Daughter
F = Father GC = Grandchild(ren) GP = Grandparent(s)
P = Parent S = Son Z = Sister
W = Wife H = Husband SP = Spouse
LA = In-law SI = Sibling M = Mother
(m.s.) = male speaking (f.s.) = female speaking

Principal Sources

DT = Donald Tuzin (1976) A Glossary of Kinship Terms and Concepts. Unpublished ms.

ES = Ernest L. Schusky (1965) Manual for Kinship Analysis. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

GK = Julius Gould & William L. Kolb, eds., (1964) A Dictionary of the Social Sciences. New York: The Free Press.

GPM = George Peter Murdock (1949) Social Structure New York: Macmillan.

LM = David Levinson & Martin Malone (1980) Toward Explaining Human Culture. New Haven, Conn: HRAF Press.

NG = Nelson Graburn, ed. (1971) Readings in Kinship and Social Structure. New York: Harper and Row.

RF = Robin Fox (1967) Kinship and Marriage. Baltimore,Md.: Penguin.

RK = Roger Keesing (1975) Kin Groups and Social Structure. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Kinship Terms and Concepts

Address, Terms of

Kin terms used in speaking to a kinsman or kinswoman. ES:12

Adelphic Polyandry

“The marriage of a woman to two or more brothers. Syn. “Fraternal Polyandry” ES:72.


“Relationship by marriage ties. May include the relationship between corporate groups linked by marriage between their members. A relative by marriage is an affine(RK:147; NG-12ff.; RF-35). “Whenever the connection between two relatives…includes one or more marital links, the two have no necessary biological relationship and are classed as affinal relative.” (GPM:95). Contra. “consanguinity”, “consanguine”. (Note: The relationship of husband-wife in this context is somewhat ambiguous–a matter of some dispute amongst anthropologists.)” DT


“The lack of any rule in regard to marriage within or without of a group; it denotes absence of marriage regulations on the part of a social unit.” ES:72.


“Pertaining to the reckoning of relationship by male link(s) exclusively, regardless of sex of Ego and/or Alter. An agnate, then, is a person related by patrilineal descent (RK:147).” DT. “In Roman law agnati were kin who traced their relationship by descent through males only from a common ancestor, who were under the authority of a single paterfamilias, and who resided together. Agnati could be adopted. They included women, but no kin linked through a woman.” GK:18. Contra. “uterine”.


“In kinship theory, this refers to a view of society which emphasizes marital interactions (usually repetitive) between descent groups as a basis for social integration and group definition (RF-231ff.; NG232ff.)” DT. As Keesing puts it “a system whereby descent groups or other kin groups are linked by a rule of prescriptive or recurrent marriage so that the groups remain in an affinal relationship to one another across generations” (RK:147). Contra. “descent theory”.


“The person to whom a relationship is being indicated; thus, in English kinship terminology, “male Ego refers to his FB as “uncle” and Alter reciprocates with “nephew”. DT. Contra. “Ego”.


“Ambilateral is sometimes used in kinship studies to refer to non-unilineal systems in which an individual may choose to align himself with either of his parental groups. R. Firth argues that “The admission to membershilp through descent from either males or females–or both conjoined–shows that the hapu is not a unilateral group of the strict type. It may be called in fact, an ambilateral group, since both parents are eligible for the purposes of kinship affiliation” (R. Firth, Economics of the New Zealand Maori, Wellington, N.Z.:R. E. Owen 1959, p.112).” GK:22.


“A clan with patrilineal descent in which unmarried females reside with a paternal aunt and bring their husbands to the father’s sister’s home. It parallels the avuncuclan, but is only theoretical.” ES:72, GPM:71. An example of inventing kinship concepts which describe no known group.

Amitalocal Residence

“The norm whereby wives take their husbands to the residence of the bride’s father’s sister. It parallels avunculocal residence, but is only theoretical.” ES:72; GPM:71. Another example of a totally invented kinship concept that has never been found in any actual human society.


“In the amitate a sister is superior to her brother in that the paternal aunt can dictate the matrimonial destinies of her brother’s children.” ES:72, GPM:71.

Apical Ancestor (Ancestress)

The ancestor/ess from whom descent is traced (the “apex” of the triangle of descendants).

Asymmetrical Alliance

“In alliance theory, a marriage system involving indirect exchange. (Patrilateral alliance is considered by some theorists to be non-existent or impossible, so matrilateral alliance–marriage with MBD or a girl classed with her–is the form commonly referred to as asymmetrical.) (RK:147)” DT. Also called “asymmetrical cross-cousin marriage.” ES:72.

Avoidance Relationships

“A pattern of complete avoidance of speech and physical contact between relatives. Murdock (1949:273) suggests that such a technique is an aspect of sex regulation in societies where sexual prohibitions are not strongly internalized in enculturation.” ES:72


Pertaining to “uncle”. In kinship contexts, this almost invariably refers to male Ego’s MB. Contra. “nepotic”.


“denotes the institutionalization of authority by the mother’s brother over the sister’s son and the latter being made the heir and companion of the former.” GK:47.

Avunculocal Residence

“Postmarital residence of a newlywed couple with husband’s mother’s brother. Some have argued that the terms “viri-avunculocal” or “avuncu-virilocal” are more precise.” (RK:147)

Bifurcate Collateral Terminology

“A system which differentiates the uncles and aunts both from parents and from each other.” ES:73.

Bifurcate Merging Terminology

“A system which groups the F and FB and the M and MZ; however, the MB and FZ are denoted by distinct terms.” ES:73.

Bilateral (kinship)

“Kinship traced to relatives through both father and mother. Syn. “consanguineal kinship”. “(RK: 147)

“In kinship studies, this term is used in several ways. (a) All kinship is said to be bilateral in the sense that, whatever the principle of descent, an individual has kinship ties to and through both parents. (b) Only some systems are said to be bilateral; these are the non-unilineal systems, in which kinship ties traced through both parents have, or may have, equal social weight. (c) In the context of cross-cousin marriage, bilateral is used a synonym for symmetrical; i.e., bilateral cross-cousin marriage is the marriage of either kin of cross-cousin.” GK:57.

Bilocal Residence

“A norm which permits a married couple to live with or near the parents of either spouse; a factor such as the relative wealth of the two families is likely to determine where the couple will reside.” ES:73.

Blood Brother

“…a relation of alliance or consociation by which individuals not related by kinship acquire ties of pseudo-kinship, the rights and duties that compose the relationship being modeled on those of brotherhood.” GK:58.

Bridewealth (or Brideprice)

“Tangible items of value transferred from the groom or groom’s group to the bride’s group, the prestation serving to validate the marriage union. Cf. Brideservice, in which the groom contributes labor and/or services to the bride’s group for validatory purposes.” DT. Contra. “dowry”.


“refers to: (a) the form of social organization found in India based on relgious beliefs in the supremacy of the Brahman, rigid ranking according to birth, and restrictions on occupation and marriage; (b) one of the Indian hereditary groups within this social system; (c) any hereditary and exclusive class elsewhere (usually pejoratively with connotations of discrimination or unfair privilege.” GK:74.


A unilineal descent group or category whose members trace patrilineal descent (patriclan) or matrilineal descent (matriclan) from an apical ancestor/ess, but do not know the genealogical links that connect them to the apical ancestor/ess (RK:148). In the common British anthropological sense, a descent group, usually consisting of several lineages, between which shared descent from an ancestor (or ancestress) is assumed but cannot actually be demonstrated (NG-164; RF 49). Many American anthropologists, following Murdock (1949), regard a “clan” as the localized core of a dispersed unilineal descent group (i.e., a patri- or matri-sib) or non-unilineal descent group (i.e., a sept) (NG-204). An earlier, and now obsolete usage regarded the “clan” as a matrilineal descent group, as opposed to a patrilineal descent group, which was termed a “gens” (plur. gentes; adj. gentile) (NG-37). DT. “Clan was used originally in anthropology to refer to Teutonic and Scottish society…Different authors have used the term to refer to various types of descent group.” GK:95

Classifactory System

A mode of kinship classification in which collateral kin are terminologically equated with lineal kin (e.g., FB = F, MZ = M, etc.) (RK: 148)


A bilateral (consanguineal) kinsman or kinswoman.

Cognatic (Descent)

Sense #1: A mode of descent reckoning where all descendants of an apical ancestor/ancestress through any combination of male or female links are included (preferred sense). Sense #2: Synonymous with “bilateral” or “consanguineal”. Syn. “bilateral kinship”. RK.

Collateral Kinsmen

“The siblings of lineal relatives (parents, grandparents) and their descendants.: RK:148. Contra. “Lineal Kinsmen”

Complementary Filiation

“The collection of rights, obligations, sentiments, etc. which are attached to the immediate line opposite that by which formal descent is reckoned. E.g., complementary filiation is matrilateral in a patrilineal society (RF-233; NG-87, 169).” DT. “In the work of Fortes, Goody and others the relationship between a person and his/her maternal uncle and his lineage (in a patrilineal descent system); or between person and his/her paternal aunt/uncle and their lineage (in a matrilineal descent system).” (RK:148). Contra. “Descent”

Compound Family

“Consists of three or more spouses and their children; it may be produced in monogamous societies by a second marriage giving rise to step-relationships.” ES:74.


Relationship by blood (i.e., presumed biological) ties. A consanguine is a relative by birth (i.e., a “blood” relative), as distinguished from in-laws (“affines”) and step-relatives. (NG:12ff.; RF:33; RK:148). Contra. “affinity”, affine(s)”.


A property of formally constituted social groups which concerns their continuance beyond the life of any particular individual. That is, “the decease of individual members makes no difference to the collective existence of the aggregate body, and does not in any way affect its legal incidents, its faculties or liabilities” (NG:12). DT.

Corporate Group

“A social group whose members act as a legal individual in terms of collective rights to property, a common group name, collective responsibility, and so on.” (RK:148)


The children of opposite-sexed siblings; similarly, the offspring of one’s parents’ opposite-sexed siblings. E.g., MBC or FZC. Contra. “parallel-cousins” (RF 185; NG-240). DT.

Cross-Cousin Marriage

“In alliance theory (especially in its early versions), a rule or practice of marriage between father’s sister’s child and mother’s brother’s child (a man’s marriage with MBD is “matrilateral cross-cousin marriage”; a man’s marriage with FZD is “patrilateral cross-cousin marriage”)” RK:148.

Curvilinear Hypothesis

Proposed by Blumberg and Winch (1972), it “states that: (1) the independent family is the typical family type in small hunting and gathering societies and in large, industrialized societies; (2) the extended family is the typical family type in settled, agricultural societies. Thus, there is a curvilinear relationship between family type and societal complexity.” LM:87. See Rae L. Blumberg and Robert F. Winch (1972) “Societal Complexity and Familial Complexity: Evidence for the Curvilinear Hypothesis” American Journal of Sociology 77:898-920.

Crow Terminology

“A mode of kinship classification usually but not always associated with matrilineal descent in which a line of father’s matrilineal kin are terminologically equated across generations (mirror image of Omaha terminology).” RK:148

Deme (pronounced “deem”)

“An endogamous local group in the absence of unilinear descent, especially when we are regarding it as a kin group rather than as a community.” GPM:63 “A local group lacking unilineal descent.” ES:75.

Denotative Kinship Term

“A kinship term which applies only to relatives in a single kinship category as defined by generation, sex, and genealogical connection.

Derivative Kinship Term

“A term that is a compound of an elementary kin term and another sound or phrase, e.g., “sister-in-law” or “stepson”.” ES:75.


“A relationship defined by connection to an ancestor (or ancestress) through a culturally recognized sequence of parent-child links (from father to son to son’s son= patrilineal descent, from mother to daughter to daughter’s daughter = matrilineal descent” (RK:148). In other words, descent is the tracing of relationships inter-generationally through real, putative, or fictive parent-child links. Various typologies of descent have been proposed

Keesing’s Typology of Descent

Patrilineal Descent(or agnatic)

descent from an ancestor down through a series of male links (i.e., through the ancestor’s son, his son’s sons, his son’s sons’ sons, etc.)

Matrilineal Descent (or uterine)

descent from an ancestress down through a series of female links (through daughter, daughter’s daughter, etc.)

Cognatic Descent

descent from an ancestor or ancestress through a series of links that can be male or female or any combination of the two.

Double Descent

a system whereby two sets of social groups or categories exist (for different purposes) in the same society, one based on patrilineal descent and the other on matrilineal descent (so a person belongs to his/her father’s patrilineal group and his/her mother’s matrilineal group).

Tuzin’s Typology of Descent

Unilineal Descent

The principle whereby descent is traced either through the male line (“patrilineal”) or the female line (“matrilineal”), but not both (NG-163ff.; RF-97ff.)

Double Descent

The principle whereby descent is traced through the male line for certain prescribed purposes, and through the female line for other prescribed purposes; also called Double Unilineal Descent (NG-169; RF-131, 146).

Non-Unilineal Descent

The principle whereby descent is reckoned by means other than exclusively through the father and his male ancestors or the mother and her female ancestors (RF-147; NG-200ff).

Ambilineal Descent

The principle whereby descent is reckoned through male or female links without set order (NG-198).

Bilateral Descent

The principle whereby descent is traced equally through males (i.e., father) and females (i.e., mother). Also called Cognatic. English kinship embodies such a descent principle (NG-198; RF-146ff).

Note: Principles of descent often govern recruitment to social groups (e.g., Ego is admitted to membership in a patrilineage according to the principle of patrilineal descent), but these correspondences must be verified empirically.

Descent Group

“A kin group whose membership is based on a rule of descent. Appropriate descent status (patrilineal, matrilineal, or cognatic, depending on the society) entitles a person to be a member of the group.” (RK:148). A socially recognized group of persons, all of whom trace real or putative descent from a common ancestor (or ancestress) with parent-child links between every generation. In-marrying persons (“affines”) may or may not be assimilated to this group as formal members (RF-49; NG-1).

Descent Rule

“A descent principle culturally used to define eligibility for membership in a kin group” RK:148.

Descriptive Kinship Term

“A term that combines two or more elementary terms to denote a specific relative. “My brother’s wife” is a descriptive term while “sister-in-law” is not. A sister-in-law may be either WZ or BW. One must be careful to distinguish between descriptive terminology or systems on the one hand and descriptive terms on the other. Descriptive systems separate lineal from collateral relatives. Thus, “cousin” is a term in a descriptive system. However, the term “cousin” may be called a classificatory term because it includes several different types of relatives.” ES:75. See “kin class”, “kin type”, “kin term”.

Descriptive Terminology

“Sets off the direct line of a person’s descent and the immediate relatives of his own generation from all other individuals. Lineal relatives are all differentiated from collateral relatives.” ES:75.

Direct Exchange (échange restreint)

“A system of alliance (prescriptive marriage) whereby kin groups exchange wives directly (so that wife-givers are the same as wife-takers).” RK:149.

Domestic Group

“A social group occupying or centered in a dwelling house, living (and usually eating) together, and characteristically exercising corporate control over family property.” RK:149.

Double Descent

“A system whereby two sets of social groups or categories exist (for different purposes) in the same society, one based on patrilineal descent and the other on matrilineal descent (so a person belongs to his/her father’s patrilineal group and his/her mother’s matrilineal group).” RK:149.


Tangible items of value transferred from the bride’s group to the groom or groom’s group to validate the marriage union. Often this is more properly seen as the early bestowal of the girl’s inheritance, over which she may retain considerable control. Contra. “bridewealth”

Dravidian Terminology

“A mode of kinship reckoning whereby parallel and cross relatives (or “kin” and “affines”) are systematically distinguished; characteristically, but apparently not always, associated with a rule of symmetrical alliance (direct exchange), i.e., a two-section system.” RK:149.


The point of view taken in describing a relationship ; thus “Ego’s MBD.” Contra. “Alter”

Elementary Family

Same as “Nuclear Family”. Note that a childless family would not constitute an elementary family. ES:75.

Elementary Kinship Term

“A term that cannot be reduced into component elements. “Father” and “niece” are elementary terms in English.” ES:75.


“A requirement for marriage within a defined category or range or group or community (“in-marriage”). All societies are minimally endogamous in that they limit marriage to members of the same species; most limit marriage to members of the opposite sex.” RK:149. Contra. “Exogamy”.


“An endogamous local group lacking a descent rule.” ES:75.


Marriage to person(s) outside the group, however defined (e.g., descent, locality, castes, etc.). Contra. “Endogamy”

Extended Family

“A domestic group or composite of domestic groups consisting of two or more nuclear families linked together through parent and child (patrilineal extended family, matrilineal extended family) or through siblings (fraternal or sororal extended family).” (RK:149). The social unit, usually co-residing, consisting of two or more nuclear families affiliated through an extension of parent-child relationships; i.e., the nuclear family of a married adult joined to that of his/her parents (NG-359).

Family: GP Murdock (1949)

1 “…a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction.” Others argue that the family should be considered as a kinship group and should not be confused with other social groups based on common residence (household) or function (domestic unit)

Family of Procreation

The nuclear family which Ego establishes by marriage, consisting of his/her “wife/husband”, sons and daughter (GPM:13; NG-365). Contra. “Family of orientation”

Family of Orientation

The nuclear family into which Ego was born and reared, consisting of his father, mother, brothers and sisters (GPM: 13; NG-365). Contra. “Family of procreation”

Levinson and Malone Typology of Families: (LM: 79ff)

Matrifocal Family

consists of a mother and her children.

Nuclear Family

consists of a wife/mother, husband/father, and their children.

Polygynous Family

consists of a husband/father, two or more co-wives/mothers and their children.

Polyandrous Family

consists of one wife/mother, her children and two or more husband/fathers.

Extended Family

consists of individuals who are recognized as both husband/father and son/brother or wife/mother and sister/daughter at the same time. Extended families combine at least one individual’s family of orientation with his or her family of procreation. Murdock (1949) views the extended family as composite nuclear families. Linton views them as multi-generational consanguineal families to which spouses are added. Murdock (1949) provides us with a typology of extended families based on post-nuptial residence. Nimkoff (1965:19) has produced a typology based on structural differences.

Murdock’s Typology of Extended Families

“An extended family consists of two or more nuclear families affiliated through an extension of the parent-child relationship rather than of the husband-wife relationship, i.e., by joining the nuclear family of a married adult to that of his parents.” Murdock 1949:2

“The several types of extended family depend primarily upon the prevailing rule of residence.” Murdock 1949: 33.


the families of procreation of a man, his married sons and his sons’. GPM:34


the families of procreation of a woman, her daughters and her daughters’ daughters.


either the son or the daughter, depending upon circumstances of the particular case, may remain at home and thereby attach his family of procreation to his/her family of orientation. Thus the nuclear family of a married couple is united with those of some but not all of their sons, of some but not all of their daughters, and of some but not all of their grandchildren of either sex. Nuclear families of adjacent generations, in short, may be linked by any type of parent-child relationship.


a man, his wife or wives, his young sons and unmarried daughters, several of his sister’s adolescent but unmarried sons, a sister’s son who is married to his daughter, the young children of the latter couple, possibly other married nephews or daughters with their families, and occasionally even a grand nephew or two. In this instance the associated nuclear families are linked through two relationships, that between parent and daughter and that between maternal uncle and nephew. In some societies with this type of extended family, however, the nephew does not marry the daughter, so that the uncle-nephew link alone connects the associated nuclear families of adjacent generations.

Nimkoff’s Typology of Extended Families:

Stem Family

two nuclear families in adjacent generations with one son/husband or daughter/wife who is a member of both families.

Lineal Family

One nuclear family in the senior generation and two or more nuclear families in the junior generation.

Fully Extended Family

the families of at least two siblings or cousins in each of at least two adjacent generations.

Joint Family

two or more nuclear families who form a corporate economic unit.

Fictive Kinship

“A relationship, such as godparenthood, modeled on relations of kinship, but created by customary convention rather than the circumstances of birth.” RK:149 Examples include “blood brothers”, “godparents”. ES:5. Some would make a distinction between “fictive” kin and “putative” kin, the latter including adopted children.

Filial Widow Inheritance

“The norm that allows a man to inherit his father’s widows, except his own mother. It can occur only in polygynous tribes but even then is rare.” ES:76.


“Relationship to or through one’s father and one’s mother, or the basing of rights on this relationship.” RK:149.

Fraternal Joint Family

“Consists of two or more brothers and their wives (and children); the bond of union is consanguineal.” ES:76.

Fraternal Polyandry

“A family consisting of several brothers with one wife in common.” ES:76. See “Adelphic Polyandry”

Generalized Exchange

A system of marriage exchange in which women are viewed as circulating within groups. Wife-givers cannot be wife-takers. RF:219.


Biological father (genitrix = biological mother). Contra. “pater.”


Biological mother (genitor = biological father). Contra. “mater”.


An antiquated term for a patrilineal descent group now more commonly known as a clan. See “clan”.

Group Marriage

A marital union involving several women and several men at once (GPM: 24). It does not appear to ever have existed as the cultural norm or the prevailing type of union in any known society.

Hawaiian Kinship Terminology

“A mode of kinship reckoning, usually associated with bilateral kinship or cognatic descent, in which relatives are distinguished only according to sex and generation.” RK:149.


Denotes a marriage rule prescribing union of a female with a male of higher status. Contra. “Hypogamy”


Denotes a marriage rule prescribing union of a female to a male to a male of lower status. Contra. “Hypergamy”


“Sexual intercourse between two persons who are related by a real, assumed, or artificial bond of kinship that is regarded as a bar to sex relations. Where sex relations are forbidden, but not because of kinship, they may be called mismating. Where either party occupies a status forbidding sex relations, e.g., a nun, sexual intercourse may be termed status unchastity.(Murdock 1949:261).” ES:76.

Incest Taboo

“A rule prohibiting sexual relations between immediate kin (father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister) and others culturally defined as in an equivalent relationship. Differs from “exogamy”, which prohibits marriage but not necessarily sexual relations.” RK:149.

Indirect Exchange (échange géneralisé)

“A system of alliance (prescriptive marriage) whereby kin groups exchange wives indirectly, so that a man must marry his actual or classificatory MBD (matrilineal alliance) or FZD (patrilineal alliance, said not to exist) but so that wife-givers cannot be wife-takers.” RK:149.

Iroquois Terminology

“A mode of kinship reckoning, usually but not always associated with unilineal descent, in which cross and parallel relatives are distinguished according to relative sex of connecting relatives in the middle three generations only.” RK:149.

Joint Family

two or more nuclear families who form a corporate economic unit. LM:86

Joking Relationship

“Patterned behavior between kin that calls for mild to taunting or ribald joking.” ES:76.

Kin Class

A class or set of kin types labeled by a single kin term. E.g., “cousin”, “uncle”, “grandfather”. See “kin term” and “kin type”.

Kin Group

“A social group whose members define their relationship (or their eligibility for membership) by kinship or common descent.” RK:150. ES:76.

Kin Term

A lexeme whose primary referent is genealogical. “Uncle” “aunt”, etc.. See “kin type” and “kin class”.

Kin Type

Any specific genealogical relationship. E.g., Mother’s brother, Father’s brother, Father’s sister’s husband.


“A social group or category consisting of an individual’s circle of relatives, or that range of a person’s relatives accorded special cultural recognition.” RK:150. “A group of persons, all of whom have a single relative (Ego) in common who is not an ancestor of theirs. It follows that the only persons having identical kindreds would be full siblings. (RF-164; NG-205).” DT


“Relationship based on or modeled on the culturally recognized connection between parents and children (and extended to siblings and through parents to more distant relatives.)” RK:150.

Kinship Terminology

“A system of linguistic categories for denoting kinds of relatives.” RK:150.


“A system where a dead man’s brother (or equivalent close male relative) succeeds to his status as husband, by marrying his widow.” RK:150. “Rule whereby a man is entitled to inherit the widow of his deceased brother. Also, Leviratic polyandry: simultaneous marriage of a woman to two or more men who are brothers (to one another).” DT Contra. “Sororate”


“A unilineal descent group based on patrilineal descent (patrilineage) or matrilineal descent (matrilineage) whose members trace descent from an apical ancestor/ancestress by known genealogical links.” RK:150. “A descent group in which the links connecting living members with a common ancestor (or ancestress) may be actually demonstrated. Variations: patrilineage, where links are traced exclusively through the male lines; matrilineage, where links are traced exclusively through the female lines; cognatic lineage, where links are traced through both sex lines” (RF-49). DT.

Lineal Kinsmen

Direct descendants and ancestors to whom Ego has an unbroken chain of parent-child linkages. For example, Ego’s father, mother’s father, father’s father’s mother’s father, son, son’s daughter’s son, etc. Contra. “Collateral Kinsmen”

Lineal Terminology

“Recognizes collaterality but not bifurcation. FB and MB are grouped; FZ and MZ are grouped; there are separate terms for M and F. American kinship is lineal.” ES:77.

Main Sequence Kinship Theory

Murdock first stated this theory in its entirety as follows: “When any social system which has attained equilibrium begins to change, such change regularly begins with modification of the rule of residence. Alteration in residence rules is followed by development or change in form of descent consistent with residence rules. Finally adaptive changes in kinship terminology follow (Murdock 1949:221-222).” LM: 105.


Sociological mother (pater = sociological father), not necessarily biological mother. Contra. “genitrix”. See genitor.


“Rule of the family (and society) by the mother; no strictly matriarchal societies are known. “Maripotestal” is a synonym for matriarchal.” ES: 77.


“An exogamous, nonunilinear group with matrilocal residence. See “Deme”.” ES:77.

Matrilateral Relations

Those kinship relationships one acquires through mother. One’s kinsmen and kinswomen on “mother’s side”.


A unilineal descent group based on matrilineal descent.

Matrilineal Descent

“A principle of descent from an ancestress through her daughter, her daughter’s daughter, and so on (in the female line)” RK:150.

Matrilocal Residence

A post-nuptial residence pattern in which the newly wed couple establishes residence with wife’s group. Some would restrict this usage to those societies which have unilineal descent groups. See uxorilocal residence. Contra. “patrilocal”.

Matri-patrilocal Residence

“A pattern of initial matrilocal residence followed by permanent patrilocal residence.” ES:77.


“The grouping of lineal and collateral kinsmen under one classificatory term. Classifying the FB with F or MZ with M is a common merging practice.” ES:77.

Migration Theory of Matrilocality

Divale countered the warfare theory of matrilocality as follows: “…matrilocal residence is an adaptive response to the disequilibrium that occurs when a virilocal or patrilocal society migrates into an already inhabited region. The sudden immigration will result in external warfare between the migrating and indigenous societies. Most of the world’s societies (approximately seventy per cent) practice patrilocal residence and are characterized by the presence of fraternal interest groups, which have been shown to be conducive to the frequent feuding and internal warfare that also characterizes these societies. In face of severe external warfare, the changes of successful adaptation would be increased if these societies cease their feuding and internal war and instead concentrate all their resources against the other society. Matrilocal residence accomplishes this, because the dispersal of males from their natal villages upon marriage results in the breakup of fraternal interest groups (Divale 1974b: 75)” LM:111. See “Warfare Theory of Matrilocality”

Mixed Descent

“Gillin (1948:433) notes that mixed descent is relatively rare but two varieties do occur. Sex-linked mixed descent affiliates males with their father’s male line; females with the mother’s female line. Cross-sex mixed descent affiliates males with the mother’s father, females with the father’s mother.” ES:75.


“A division of a society into two social categories or groups, characteristically by a rule of patrilineal descent (patri-moiety) or matrilineal descent (matri-moiety).” RK:150. “The formally recognized “halves” of a society which regularly interact in prescribed manners. Most authors consider moiety intermarriage to be criterial to the definition, but many societies possess non-exogamous moieties which interact in ritual and ceremonial contexts unconnected with marriage (NG-155); RF 182).” DT.


“A form of marriage which limits a person to only one spouse at a time. Lowie (1948:114) estimates that few people in history practiced monogamy on principle but that the majority, in fact, led monogamous lives.” ES:77.

Neolocal Residence

“Residence of a couple after marriage in a new household not linked spatially to that of the groom’s or the bride’s kin (cf. virilocal, uxorilocal)” RK:150.

Nepotic Inheritance

“The norm that a man inherits his uncle’s wife or wives. It has been found in patrilineal groups but fits more logically a matrilineal framework, where it is usually found. It is far from universal with matrilineal descent, however.” ES:78.

Nonunilineal Descent

“An alternative term to “cognatic descent.” Since cognatic descendants include patrilineal descendants and matrilineal descendants this usage is unfortunate. I have suggested that the term be used in societies that recognize a unilineal core within a cognatic descent category to denote descent status through at least one alternate-sex link (i.e., non-agnatic where descent includes at least one female link, nonuterine where it includes at least one male link).” RK:150.

Nuclear Family

“A family unit consisting of parents and their dependent children.” RK:150. “The social unit, based on real or putative or fictive blood ties, and consisting of a male, his wife, and their dependent offspring. Also called “elementary family” or “conjugal family” (RF-36; NG-358).” DT

Omaha Terminology

“A mode of kinship classification usually but not always associated with patrilineal descent in which a line of mother’s patrilineal kin are terminologically equated across generations (mirror image of Crow terminology).” RK:150.


“The children of same-sexed siblings; similarly, the offspring of one’s parents’ same-sexed siblings. E.g., MZC (RF-185).” DT “Ego’s father’s brother’s child or mother’s sister’s child, or more distant cousin classed terminologically with these first cousins.” RK:150. Contra “Cross-cousins”.


Sociological father (mater = sociological mother), not necessarily biological father. Contra. “genitor”. See “genitrix”.

Patrilateral Relations

Those kinship relations one acquires through father. One’s kinsmen and kinswomen on “father’s side.”


A unilineal descent group based on patrilineal descent.

Patrilineal Descent

“Descent traced through a line of ancestors in the male line. Syn. “Agnatic Descent”” RK:150.

Patrilocal Residence

Residence of a married couple with the husband’s group. Some would restrict this usage to those societies with unilineal descent groups. See virilocal residence.


“A grouping of clans related by traditions of common descent or historical alliance based on kinship.” RK 150 “Recognized, often named social group consisting of two or more clans recognizing relationship to one another, the implication being that there are two or more such clan-sets (“phratries”) in a given society (NG-35; RF-92).” DT. (NOTE: If there are only two phratries then they are called moieties. Therefore, there must be at least THREE such groupings of clans before we can speak of phratries.)


“Plural marriage, of which there are two major types: polygyny and polyandry (RF-58,87)” DT.


Marriage of a male to two or more females.

Sororal Polygyny

where the plural  wives are sisters (to one another)

Serial Polygyny

where the marriages occur seriatum (NOTE: this is a misnomer, if the marriages are not simultaneous, they cannot be considered as polygamous)


Marriage of a female to two or more males.

Fraternal Polyandry

where the husbands are brothers (to one another) (NG-365ff.)

Positive Marriage Rules

Rules which stipulate “not only whom one may not marry , they specify also whom one should marry. RF:199.

Negative Marriage Rules

Rules which stipulate only “whom one should not marry but have no rule about the actual choice of partner. RF:199.

Preferential Marriage

“A marriage pattern (e.g., marriage with a cross-cousin, a brother’s widow, etc.) that is socially valued and desirable, but not enjoined.” RK:151.

Prescriptive Marriage

“In alliance theory, a requirement that marriage be with a partner in a particular kinship category. Even where “incorrect” marriages occur, they are likely to be classed as if they were correct, and kinship relations readjusted accordingly.” RK:151.

Primary Relatives

Ego’s parents and siblings in his family of orientation and his spouse and children in his family of procreation. GPM:14


An inheritance rule which favors the first born child in a family. Contra. “ultimogeniture”


“A group constituted by using both or either parents as links in group membership (NG-198).” DT. “A term used by Firth to denote a cognatic descent group; and by Sahlins, to denote a descent system where local descent groups are ranked according to seniority of descent, as in Tonga.” RK:151.

Reference, Terms of

Kin terms used in speaking about a kinsman or kinswoman to a third part. See “Address, Terms of”.

Relationship Systems

“Term used by Needham and other proponents of the “category” approach to kinship terms to denote “kinship” terminologies (this avoids the genealogical implication).” RK:151.


“Referring to conventional rules or patterns of behavior concerning the place a couple lives after marriage. Usually expressed with the suffix”-local”, thus, “virilocal”-residence with the husband’s group (NG-240ff.; RF-84).” DT. There is some confusion in the use of residence terms, but Divale (1974a) provides a useful restatement of Murdock’s classic definitions. His scheme with some modification is presented below:

Divale’s Typology of Residence Patterns

(Note: 4B and 9 have been added by MDM):

1A. Patrilocal

Normal Residence is with or near the husband’s patrilineal kinsmen.

1B. Virilocal

Equivalent to patrilocal but patrilineal kin groups are absent. Residence is with husband’s group.

2A. Matrilocal

Normal Residence is with or near the wife’s matrilineal kinsmen.

2B. Uxorilocal

Equivalent to matrilocal but matrilineal kin groups are absent. Residence is with wife’s group.

3. Avunculocal

Normal residence is with or near the maternal uncle (mother’s brother) or other male matrilineal kinsmen of the husband.

4A. Bilocal

Residence is established optionally with or near the parents of either spouse.

4B. Ambilocal

Murdock identifies with bilocal, but can also be used to identify systems in which the married couple shifts periodically from residence with husband’s groups to residence with wife’s group (e.g., Dobuans who shift periodically from matrilocality to avunculocality).

5. Matrilocal/Avunculocal option

Like bilocal, except that the option is limited to either matrilocal or avunculocal residence.

6. Avunculocal/Virilocal option

Like bilocal, except that the option is limited to either avunculocal or virilocal residence.

7. Neolocal

Normal residence is apart from the relatives of both spouses.

8. Duolocal

There is no common household. Spouses remain in their natal groups.

9. Matri-patrilocal

First the newly wed couple lives with the bride’s group for a time (usually for a year or until the birth of the first child), then residence is shifted definitely to the groom’s group. GPM: 17.

Respect Relationships

“Behavior patterns between kin that involve standardized ways of showing respect.” ES:79.

Restricted Exchange

“Marriage exchange is restricted where it has to involve two groups who exchange directly. Such a system can only ‘grow’ by splitting into four, eight, sixteen etc. groups and by continuing to exchange directly.” RF:219. A system of marriage exchange in which wife-givers are also wife-takers.

Secondary Relatives

The primary relatives of Ego’s primary relatives (who are not, of course, also primary relatives of Ego). E.g., father’s father, mother’s sister, wife’s mother, brother’s son, etc. GPM: 14

Section System

“In alliance theory and Australian kinship studies, division of a society into two, four, or eight social categories through rules of descent and alliance. Symmetrical rules of marital alliance, enjoining marriage with a member of one of the sections, are a normal accompaniment of such systems.” RK:151.

Segmentary Systems

“In descent systems, defining descent categories with reference to more and more remote apical ancestors so that the descent categories form a tree-like structure (including successively wider ranges of descendants).” RK:151.


The process whereby segments of a lineage split apart and become established as separate “sub-lineages.” This is usually associated with political processes and/or demographic growth (RF-123); NG-200).


A non-unilineal descent group (NG-204). See “clan”. See “kindred”.


“A dispersed, as opposed to localized, unilineal descent group (i.e., a patri- or matri-sib). Rarely used in the British anthropological literature.” DT. ” Two or more lineages related by a common, mythical ancestor.” ES:79. See “clan”


“Exchange of sisters in marriage by a pair of men.” RK:151.

Sororal Polygyny

The marriage of a man to two or more sisters simultaneously. Distinguish between this and the sororate.


“Rule whereby a man is entitled to marry the sister of his deceased wife. Also, Sororal Polygyny: simultaneous marriage to a man to two or more women who are sisters (to one another).” DT. “This perpetuates the marital contract between groups.” RK:151. Contra. “Levirate”.

Symmetrical Alliance

“In alliance theory, a marriage system involving direct exchange. See “Direct Exchange”.” RK:151.

Symmetrical Cross-Cousin Marriage

Marriage with a MBD or a FZD.


“A practice whereby a child does not take his name from its parents but rather parents derive a name from their child. For example, an adult is known as “the father of so-and-so.” ES:79.

Tertiary Relatives

The primary relatives of Ego’s secondary relatives. E.g., father’s sister’s husband, wife’s sister’s daughter. GPM: 14.


“Symbolic association between a social group (e.g., a lineage or clan) and a kind of (animal,) bird, plant, or natural phenomenon. In “classic” forms, a member of the social group has some special religious relationship (e.g., a food taboo) toward members of the natural species.” RK:151.


A inheritance rule which favors the youngest born child in a family. Contra. “primogeniture”

Unilineal Descent

“Patrilineal (agnatic) or matrilineal (uterine) descent.” RK:151.


Pertaining to the reckoning of relationship by female link(s) exclusively, regardless of sex of Ego and/or Alter. Contra. “agnate”.

Uterine Nephew

“Ego’s sister’s son.” ES:79.


Pertaining to the “wife.” Contra. “Viri-”

Uxorilocal Residence

“Residence of a married couple with the wife’s kin.” RK:151. Same as “matrilocal residence” except that matrilineal descent groups are not present.


Pertaining to the “husband”. Contra. “Uxori-”

Virilocal Residence

“Residence of a married couple with the husband’s kin. Residence rules can be further distinguished as “viri-patrilocal” (with the husband’s father), “viri-avunculocal” (residence with husband’s maternal uncle.” RK:151. Same as patrilocal residence except that patrilineal descent groups are not present.

Warfare Theory of Matrilocality

The Embers assert a relationship between warfare and residence patterns, as follows: “Patrilocal residence is favored by the presence of at least some internal warfare (that is, warfare within the society), whether or not such warfare interferes with a patridominant division of labor; and matrilocal residence is favored by purely external warfare if such warfare compels the division of labor to become matridominant (Ember and Ember 1971: 593)” LM:109 See “Migration Theory of Matrilocality”.


The abduction of a woman who is taken as a wife. “Wife-capture is exceedingly rare as a normal mode of marriage, not appearing as such in any of the societies of our sample, and elopements are usually later legitimized by the performance of the customary ceremonies and property transactions.” GPM:20.