Mon cadet, mon aîné.

Mon cadet, mon aîné.

maw kaa-DAY, maw nay-NAY.  Click below to hear this pronounced!  

My youngest, my oldest.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all sentimental on you. I’m just going to tell you how to refer to your children when you are telling stories about them. This can also apply to your siblings, so don’t stop reading if you don’t have children!

You know about cadets in a military academy. They are the youngest students. In the same way, mon cadet means my youngest (male) child, and ma cadette means my youngest (female) child. Add frère or soeur, and those are your siblings: mon frère cadet, ma soeur cadette (maw frair kah-DAY, mah SUHR kah-DETT).

Mon aîné(e) is my oldest. Because aîné begins with a vowel, you use mon for the possessive whether it’s a boy or a girl you are referring to. Just add the final e (that one between the parentheses) for a girl. But for your siblings, say ma soeur aînée and mon frère aîné.

Aîné is a funny word, one of those words whose history shines right through the word in its modern form. means born, and ainz was the Old French word for before. It might have been pronounced /aantz/, /eye-ntz/, or /entz/. In any case, you can almost hear its Latin predecessor, ante, in the French derivative, especially when you consider that in later Latin, the –te started producing a softer, sibilant sound like an /s/ or /z/.

So aîné (ainz né) means born before. And here’s one more Old French word for you: puîné. Before cadet came into use, puîné was used to mean younger: puis né, or then born (that is, next in line).

There’s no special word for the child in the middle. That’s me. I have une soeur aînée and un frère cadet, but I am just la deuxième enfant (the second child).

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