The Story Behind Grandma Nicknames

Grandparents are a big part of a child’s life. They provide a sense of continuity and history, and provide adults to nurture them apart from their parents. There are a lot of things a kid can learn from their grandparents, and grandparents have a relationship with their grandchildren that is unlike any other relationship a kid can have. Not only that, but grandparents benefit from relationships with their grandchildren, both emotionally and cognitively.

Grandmother and Baby

But most kids have two sets of grandparents, which makes referring to grandparents by nicknames a lot easier than using “grandma” and “grandpa,” especially at large family gatherings.

Why We Have Grandparent Nicknames

One of the first and most important reasons is that “grandma” and “grandpa” can be difficult for children to say when they first start speaking. In fact, that’s where a lot of grandparent nicknames come from!

Some grandparents find “grandma” and “grandpa” too generic, old, and stodgy for them, and would prefer to be called by a different name.

Some grandparent nicknames are handed down through the generations by family tradition, and this brings some regional differences in grandparent nickname conventions. Keeping these traditions alive is really important to some families!

Shortened or simplified names help babies learn the basic sounds that their native language is made up of. These are some of the first and most important words that children learn.

Grandparent Names Around the World

There’s a lot of regional variations in grandparent nicknames around the world, and most of these, like gramma or gram gram in english, stem from the words for “grandma” and “grandpa” in the regional language. Here are some examples.

  • In Spanish, “abuelita” means grandma, but is often shortened to “buela” or “lita.”
  • Most German speakers call their grandmothers “oma,” a tradition you see in a lot of American families today.
  • Mandarin actually has two words for grandmother: “nai nai” for the paternal grandmother, and “wai po” or “lao lao” for the maternal grandmother.
  • Grandmother in Hindi is similar; “dadi” refers to the paternal grandmother, and “nani” refers to the maternal grandmother.
  • In Arabic, the word for grandmother is “Jidda,” but other words used include “teta,” “gidda,” “nana,” and “yumma.”

These are just a few examples, languages around the world all have their own names for grandmothers and grandfathers. Most of them have shortened forms for babies and kids to use; grandparent nicknames!

How to Pick a Grandparent Nickname

You can choose your own grandparent nickname! It’s best to keep it to a limited number of syllables, so that kids who are just learning to speak can manage them. You can base them off of a family or regional tradition, or use a shortened form of grandpa or grandma, or you can even base them off your own name. Or, you can choose one that you just like.

Whatever you choose, use it consistently and your grandchild will pick it up quickly. Make sure that mom and dad know what you want to be called, so that they call you that in front of the kiddo to reinforce using your grandparent nickname!

You can also let the kiddo figure out what to call you. These nicknames tend to be based off of grandma or grandpa, or even off the grandparents’ first names, if the baby hears them being called by name enough. Babies will try to pronounce these words, and if they can’t, they’ll use a simplified version that they can say. 

You can use whatever your grandparents wanted to be called. This is a way of carrying through family tradition and reinforcing a sense of belonging to a certain culture. Some people in the US still use “oma” for grandmother because their ancestors were german immigrants.

Tips For Grandparent Nicknames

There are a few guidelines that are good to follow when choosing a grandparent nickname.

First, they should be names that the grandparents want to be called. You can involve the rest of the family in choosing this name, but make sure it’s a nickname you like.

Make sure that the nickname is something that a little kid can pronounce. Otherwise, they may make a nickname out of your nickname! Stick to a couple of syllables, at least at first, and use sounds that are common in your grandchild’s native language.

Finally, remember to be flexible! Despite all of your efforts, your grandchild may still choose a nickname for you. Roll with it, and remember that this nickname was made out of love for you.

Is there any sweeter way to welcome a new grandparent than to gift them with a cute and cuddly toy or baby blanket personalized with their new grandma or grandpa name? We don’t think so. Check out our personalized gifts selection and find the perfect gift for the Nana or Gigi or Oma in your life!

1 comment

Lollipop and Pop

Jean Roat March 06, 2023

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