Godfather vs. Uncle: What is the difference?

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Difference between Godfather and Uncle

Godfathers and uncles are men who can play an important role in the life of a child. Both of these figures are traditionally believed to bear some responsibility for a child's upbringing, although the godfather holds a position of religious significance while the uncle's position is that of a close relative. The roles which uncles and godfathers play today can vary a great deal between families, and their significance has also changed over time.

Blood Relations

An uncle is a family member who may be a blood relative or an in law. A child's uncle may be either the brother or one of their parents or the spouse of the child's aunt. An aunt is the sister of one of the child's parents. Traditionally, relationships by marriage have been considered just as strong as those of blood. A man would consider his wife's siblings to be his own, so his relationship with his nieces and nephews could be just as close, whether they were blood relations or relations by marriage.

The position of a godparent is often thought of as becoming an honorary relative. Traditionally, a child's godparents would not be close blood relatives, although in the earliest baptisms, the child's own parents would act as their sponsor. Later, parents were prohibited from taking this role. The number of godparents a child may have has also varied, from one to three. Often a respected figure from the local community was chosen as a godparent, in the hopes that they would be able to provide important assistance for the child in the future. Blood relations are often appointed as godparents today, so a child's uncle may also be their godfather.

A child's uncle may in some cases be younger than they are. When there is a large age gap between siblings, the older sibling may have a child before their younger brother has been born. The brother would then be the uncle of the older child. Godfathers are typically older then their godchild since they have been chosen as an older and wiser person who can provide guidance for the child.

The title Uncle is also used in some cultures to show respect for an older member of the community, rather than being used only for a relative.

Religious Significance

A godfather is a male godparent. Godparents are chosen by a child's parents and they act as the child's sponsor during their Christian baptism. A similar role also features during the circumcision ceremony in the Jewish tradition.

In Christianity, a godparent is someone who participates in the christening, which is a ceremony that welcomes the child into the Church. However, the term is sometimes used in a much looser way today, particularly in families that are not very religious. Traditionally, a godparent is an adult, non-relative and a member of the Church.


The responsibilities of a godfather or an uncle can vary a great deal between families, with some people placing a far higher importance upon these roles than others do. Traditionally, a godparent had a responsibility for the religious upbringing of the child, but this is no longer the case in every family. Some families will have their children christened, appointing a godparent, even though they are not particularly religious, in which case the religious responsibilities of the godparent are likely to be minimal or nonexistent. Similarly, in some close families, an uncle may play a very active role in the upbringing of a child, while in others children may rarely be in contact with their uncle.

Godparents are sometimes believed to bear the responsibility of caring for a child should the parents die. In some families this may still be true, but in others, another person such as a close relative may be appointed as guardian by the parents.

Another responsibility that is still upheld in some families is that the godparent should remember to give the child a present on their birthday. In some cases, this may be the only responsibility that the godfather actually upholds, while in others the godparent still takes an active role in the child's upbringing.

Similarities and Differences

  • Uncles and godfathers are both male relations of a child, although the relationship in either case is not necessarily by blood. Both positions imply some responsibility for the child, although the roles taken by uncles and godparents in different families may vary.
  • Uncles are relations by blood or by marriage.
  • Godfathers are traditionally non-relatives, but they can also be blood relations.
  • The position of godparent is a religious one and the godfather was traditionally the child's sponsor as they joined the Christian Church at baptism.
  • Godfathers and uncles tend to play more similar roles today.


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