Cousins: First, Second, Third, Removed, Kissing — It's Complicated!

The word "cousin" is often used loosely across cultures, and even throughout American history. We have first, second and third cousins, we have cousins once removed, we have half cousins, we even have kissing cousins — but what does it all mean? You're probably most familiar with your first cousins — the children of your parents’ siblings — but there's a practically infinite number of degrees by which people can be related to each other. First cousins share grandparents, second cousins share great-grandparents, and third cousins share great-great-grandparents, and so on. You've probably heard of cousins being once or twice "removed," but almost everybody forgets what it means as soon as it's explained to them. So, here it is again: "removed" is another way of saying "one generation away.” First cousins once removed means that two people are one generation away from being first cousins. Marriages between cousins — also known as “kissing cousins" — have been pretty common throughout history, especially in small communities where the pickings are slim. In some countries — China, Taiwan and the Philippines among them — cousin marriage is entirely outlawed. In the U.S. some states outlaw sexual relations, cohabitation or marriage between cousins, and some prohibit all three. Interestingly, some states like Arizona and Indiana outlaw cousin marriage only in those under the age of 65.