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I have two friends who speak Spanish; in the case of one, he grew up in Mexico; in the case of the other, his parents spoke Spanish at home when he was young.

They both say that "parientes" means "parents" whereas every book I've seen says it means "relatives."

It's easy to see how one could assume that "parientes" means "parents" but is it really so - maybe in certain regions of Mexico, for example, if nowhere else?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Parientes always means relatives, never parents I'm not pretty sure why your friends said that.

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Well, technically it can mean parents (in the sense that parents are relatives), just not exclusively so :-) – guifa Jun 23 '14 at 23:49
And don't forget parienta, a slang and sometimes despective term for wife. – rodrigo Jun 25 '14 at 8:50
Thinking about it sometimes means something like "this idiot(guy/girl) you have in front". ¿Quién tiró el vaso? Aquí tu pariente. This is in México. – Jaime Jun 25 '14 at 19:43

In modern, spoken Spanish, for the most part, yes, "parientes" means "relatives." However, it is worth noting that, according to the Real Academia Española, "pariente" can also mean, by definition number five:

5. m. pl. ant. Los padres. i.e. "parents"

Note, however, that the RAE points out that this is an outdated definition, and therefore is currently not used.

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I wonder how outdated it is; if only a few decades, that would explain why my buddies think it means "parents." – B. Clay Shannon Jun 24 '14 at 15:03

My favorite translation of 'parientes' to English is 'kin', as it has a slightly broader connotation than simply 'relatives.' But in any case, it certainly includes parents. Looking at the primary definition from RAE (emphasis added):

  1. adj. Respecto de una persona, se dice de cada uno de los ascendientes, descendientes y colaterales de su misma familia, ya sea por consanguinidad o afinidad.

los ascendientes certainly includes parents (as well as grand parents, great-grand parents, etc).

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I find this definition the most parsimonious one. Given the fact that padres is included within parientes it could be used. It's not the most straight-forward way to say padres anyway but that's because of word usage – Matias Andina Aug 4 '15 at 16:34

To give you a simple answer, "parientes" always means "relatives". Yes, your parents could be your relatives and all of that, but we (in México) never use it that way.

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I have been told this many times. It is generally that the person knows well what "pariente" means but does not realize the exact meaning of the English word "parent". I have heard various people from Mexico refer to their relatives, in general in terms such as "my parents".

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Well, parientes in fact means 'relatives'. But keep in mind that your parents are also your relatives.

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Yes, parents are your relatives, but your relatives are not necessarily your parents - parents are a subset of relatives. – B. Clay Shannon Jun 25 '14 at 16:42
It does not matter that you can't change the side of the logical clause, in that case one should never be able to speak about a triangle as a poligon. – Matias Andina Aug 4 '15 at 16:36

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