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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?

  • I grew up in Spain, and we used parientes as parents. Never used Padres as parents. – user13822 Oct 3 '16 at 17:12
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Parientes always means relatives, never parents. I'm not very 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 :-) – user0721090601 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
  • @Jaime, hahaha, doesn't it come from a joke, just as you can insult someone by pointing to a cow/donkey and thelling them "mira, tu pariente"? – Rafael Oct 4 '16 at 13:41
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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Note, however, that the RAE points out that this is an outdated definition, and therefore is currently not used.

  • I wonder how outdated it is; if only a few decades, that would explain why my buddies think it means "parents."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
  • The fact that parents are part of the relatives only means that also in Spanish "los padres son parte de los parientes" but that doesn't mean that parents is the same as relatives or that parents is translated "parientes" – DGaleano Oct 3 '16 at 18:16
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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).

  • 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
  • @MatiasAndina I think this is the best answer but it does not say parientes=padres. It only says that "padres" are part of "parientes" so by saying "parientes" you are not referring to "padres" exclusively. So not only parientes as you say it's not the most straight-forward way to say padres but it is not by any means a way to say padres. – DGaleano Oct 4 '16 at 14:31
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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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