I have recently gotten into contact with my birth mother (I’m adopted and from Peru) and she calls me daughter but I don’t know what to call her (our conversations are in Spanish with the help of a friend translator and google).

She gave birth to me and everything and she’s apologized for it over and over again for putting me up for adoption and it’s not something she should apologize for.
But I don’t know what to call her without insulting or demeaning my mom who raised me and took care of me. Any suggestions?

  • 3
    This is really a question of what you feel comfortable with. Given your comment about your (adoptive) mother, I presume you don't want to use madre/mamá etc. That's fine. You can just call her by her name. If at some point in the future you want to start referring to her differently, you can do so.
    – jacobo
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 17:17
  • 2
    I think this question is more adequate for Interpersonal Skills SE.
    – Santiago
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 13:12
  • 4
    What would you call her in English? Her language (or the language you guys share) should not determine what your bond/relationship is or should be. What matters is what you or you both want it to be. While "biological mother" is the correct term for what she is, what you want to call her is a completely different issue. This should be a "translation" question. You should think about what you want to call her (in English) and then be like "how do I say/convey XYZ in Spanish?"
    – Diego
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 16:38

5 Answers 5


Ok here are the different contexts and words you can use:

From the farthest to the closest context

Señora - you don't acknowledge her as your family
Madre - you acknowledge her as your progenitor and deserves your respect
Mamá - you acknowledge her as your Mom, a person you love no matter what

and then :

Mami: you accept how much you love her to the point of the ridiculousness that you are willing to endure to call her in the most intimate way only little kids without bashfulness would be willing to call her

As we have indicated that there's a level of shyness when calling your Mom "Mamá" or "Mami" in spanish, there are some ways to shorten it to make it sound less personal: it meas that you love her as your Mom, but you are to shy to call her "Mamá".

and those forms are :

and Amá

from teenager years to adult years most people(At Least in Mexico) would call their mothers this way or even will go to "Mother", not because they don't love her as "Mom" but because of the embarrassment of people of using one of the most beautiful words in our language that is Mamá.

and the sames goes for Papá!


Let's imagine that your birth mother's name is Gabi (short for Gabriela). I would suggest "Mamá Gabi." This is inspired by the way many people in Mexico talk to and refer to their grandmothers. For example, if your grandmother is called Lucía, it would be common to say "Mamá Lucía."

This is a nice combination of respect, esteem, and intimacy, which doesn't introduce any confusion with your other important maternal relationship.

When speaking of her to other people you can certainly refer to her with one of the formal terms already recommended, but if you would like something more informal and charming, I would suggest "mi primera mamá." This is what we use in my family, which includes an adoptee.

Congratulations on making your connection!

  • 1
    I'm not sure this will work in Perú as it could work in Mexico, yet I think it would be received with tenderness comming from a non-native speaking child.
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 20:56
  • @Rafael - Would doña Luci work in Peru? That is common for a younger person to call an older person who is close but not family. I think "tía" might feel like a slap in the face for the birth mother, what do you think? Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 21:32
  • I'd prefer a Peruvian to answer, but my educated guess is it would. It is at the same time respectful and close.
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 21:34

Hey I am here in Argentina with my girlfriend. She is Argentinian. It's a different culture but it's nearby. Here is a standard list of words:

  1. Madre - most formal
  2. Mamá - formal
  3. Ma - informal (more for teenagers)
  4. Mamí - most informal (more for children)
  • 1
    we say mami (withou the accent mark) in Spanish.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 9:15
  • "Progenitora mia"
    – Mike
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 15:26

The term for your "birth mother" in spanish is madre biológica or madre natural and your foster mother would be madre adoptiva or madrastra.

But you may call them both madre or mamá. If you don't have enough ties with your biological mother you may call her by her first name.

Or much better, and sure she will appreciate, ask her "¿Puedo llamarte mamá?"

  • 2
    This might be a dialectal thing, but to me madrastra just means step-mother, not adoptive mother.
    – jacobo
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 16:57
  • 1
    You are right in the meaning, but I think you shouldn't address her as madre biológica or madre natural. Those are formal terms fit for talking about her, and maybe even only in written speech.
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 17:09
  • @Rafael I said what the term is, and usually that's how they are referred in conversation with a third person in order to differentiate them. Same as birth mother, foster mother or adoptive mother in English.
    – roetnig
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 17:18
  • @ukemi madrastra is the term of that acting as your mother not being your birth mother, with or without legal adoption.
    – roetnig
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 17:19
  • 1
    Re: madrastra I was dubious. The DLE definition only fits English step mother, not foster mother. @ukemi
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 18:15

Why don't you call her just by her name, what is important is the tone you use to express the intention or feelings you want to show towards her...

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