In Javanese, the word “brother” is used not only to refer to male siblings, but also male cousins.

I may introduce my aunt’s son to a friend, saying “This is my brother” and if it’s deemed necessary to clarify, I’ll say that he’s my “cousin-brother” or “my aunt’s son”.

The Indonesian word for “cousin” is sepupu; we have none in Javanese. So to say “cousin-brother”, we’ll need to combine the Javanese mas (elder brother) with Indonesian sepupu (cousin) so we have mas sepupu (elder cousin-brother).

We can also combine the Indonesian/Javanese word adik (younger brother/sister), plus sepupu (cousin) to form adik sepupu (younger cousin-brother/sister).

You’re right. Adik refers to both genders. We don’t have a specific gender-term for the younger ones. Neither in Javanese nor Indonesian. They’re all adik. Poor adiks, indeed.

What about elder cousin sister?

We use the Javanese mbak (elder sister) plus Indonesian sepupu (cousin), and we have mbak sepupu (elder cousin sister).

Confusing? Wait….

It’s not uncommon to find Javanese people call their cousin “nephew” (using ponakan, a shortened version of the Indonesian keponakan).

I know. I didn’t realize how complicated it was until I wrote this post.

We have a lot of words for crops, but why, as a community that puts emphasis on family values, we lack of familial terms?

It might be because we call everyone brothers and sisters. Not figuratively, literally. Mas! Mbak! Dik!