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1903, modern revival of Old English sibling (relative, a relation, kinsman), equivalent to sib +‎ -ling. Compare Middle English siblynges pl, sib, sibbe (relative; kinsman), German Sippe. The term apparently meant merely kin or relative until the 20th century when it was applied in a way that aided the study of genetics, which led to its specialized use. For example, the OED has a 1903 citation in which "sibling" must be defined for those who don't know the intended meaning.[1]


  • enPR: sĭbʹ-lĭng, IPA(key): /ˈsɪblɪŋ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪblɪŋ
  • Hyphenation: sib‧ling


sibling (plural siblings)

  1. A person who shares a parent; one's brother or sister who one shares a parent with.
    None of my siblings are married yet.
  2. (computing theory) A node in a data structure that shares its parent with another node.
  3. (taxonomy) The most closely related species, or one of several most closely related species when none can be determined to be more closely related.
    • 1990 April 1, P. Hutter et al., “A genetic basis for the inviability of hybrids between sibling species of Drosophila”, in Genetics[1], volume 124, number 4, pages 909–920:
      D. simulans, D. mauritiana and D. sechellia (which we will call “the siblings” when we do not need to distinguish among them) have homosequential polytene chromosome banding patterns differing from those of D. melanogaster by one long inversion on chromosome arm 3R and a few much smaller inversions.
    • 2015 November 26, Lucie Vaníčková et al., “Current knowledge of the species complex Anastrepha fraterculus (Diptera, Tephritidae) in Brazil”, in ZooKeys, volume 540, →DOI, pages 211–237:
      Bush suggested that this difference might represent a case of chromosomal polymorphism or, more likely, sibling species.

Derived terms[edit]

Compound words and expressions



  1. ^ Karl Pearson, Alice Lee (1903) “On the laws of inheritance in man”, in Biometrika, volume 2, number 4, page 369:These [calculations] will enable us [] to predict the probable character in any individual from a knowledge of one or more parents or brethren (“siblings,” = brothers or sisters).

Further reading[edit]




From English sibling. Equivalent to native Dutch sibbe (kinship; family) +‎ -ling (-ling).


sibling m (plural siblingen)

  1. (chiefly academic) sibling
    Synonym: (uncommon) brus

Related terms[edit]

Old English[edit]


From sibb +‎ -ling.


  • IPA(key): /ˈsib.linɡ/, [ˈsib.liŋɡ]


sibling m

  1. relative, kinsman
    • 10c., Ælfric's Preface to Genesis[2]:
      tō folces ēacan, and man ne mihte þā æt fruman wīfian būton on his siblingum.
      And then at the beginning a man could not take a wife, except for among his relatives.



  • English: sibling (learned)

Further reading[edit]