In English, Steve is my first cousin because he and I share a grandfather. Beth is my second cousin because she and I share a great grandfather.

I would assume that the Spanish term "primo" (= cousin) is a shortened form of the Spanish for first cousin, so that by analogy a second cousin would be called a "segundo." But it seems that actually a second cousin is called a "primo segundo," a second first.

Is that more logical than it seems? Can anyone share anything about the etymology of this nomenclature? Was there formerly another way of expressing these relationships that did not seem oxymoronic?

  • In Spanish, we use "primo hermano" for cousins sharing the same grandparent(s). We then have "primo segundo", "primo tercero", etc.
    – Gustavson
    Jun 3 at 18:42
  • @Gustavson Do you see what I mean, that "primo segundo" seems illogical beside, say, "hermano segundo"? Or do you see it some other way?
    – Chaim
    Jun 3 at 18:48
  • Sorry if I don't see your point. "hermano" in "primo hermano" is like an adjective pointing to the close kinship, and is thus equivalent to "first cousin". When we say "primo", we generally mean "first cousin". If more remote, we use "primo segundo", "primo tercero".
    – Gustavson
    Jun 4 at 2:30
  • @Gustavson I guess you are missing how odd primo secundo, primo tercero might sound to non Spanish ears. They look like "Second first", "third first" because primo is primarily percieved to mean "first" (primero) and not "cousin" (primo).
    – jlliagre
    Jun 5 at 23:11
  • 1
    @jlliagre I understand, but "primo" as the name of a relative is not associated with "primero" to native ears, so "primo segundo" and "primo tercero" do not sound inconsistent to us.
    – Gustavson
    Jun 5 at 23:14

Yes, this derives from a longer phrase meaning literally "first [cousin]", but this abbreviation was already used in Latin:

(cōnsōbrīnus) prīmus

and hence primo, descended from this, has always meant "cousin" in Spanish.

  • Yes, but primo also mean "first". That's an issue for learners when combined with secundo or tercero.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 5 at 23:14

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