c. 1300, nece, "daughter of one's brother or sister; granddaughter; female relative," from Old French niece "niece; granddaughter" (12c., Modern French nièce), earlier niepce, from Latin neptia (also source of Portuguese neta, Spanish nieta), a more decidedly feminine form of neptis "granddaughter," in Late Latin "niece," fem. of nepos "grandson, nephew" (see nephew). Cognate with Old Lithuanian neptė, Sanskrit naptih "granddaughter;" Czech net, Old Irish necht, Welsh nith, German Nichte "niece."
It replaced Old English nift, from Proto-Germanic *neftiz, from the same PIE root (Old English also used broðordohter and nefene). Until c. 1600 in English, niece also commonly meant "a granddaughter" or any remote female descendant or kinswoman.
updated on June 13, 2019
Dictionary entries near niece