Do you have nicknames for your grandparents?

What’s wrong with calling them Grandma and Grandpa?grandparent names.jpg

Linda and I tend to have some lively discussions about things that don’t matter that much and at a time when they are not yet relevant. Well, this last weekend we had a friendly debate about whether our kids (which we do not yet have) should call our parents “grandma” and “grandpa” or if they should have more “fun” names like “pawpaw” or “meemaw” or “grammie” etc… you get the picture.

As you may be able to tell, I lean towards “boring” names like “grandpa” and “grandma”, but then of course they have to be defined further by adding a last name as a descriptor – which takes too much times she says…

She has always had some kind of nickname for her grandparents, whereas I never have. So for me, the whole nickname thing is new, but she has never known anything else… So which is better and who is right? 😉

A tale of two cities

We both grew up in different parts of the country and even different parts of the city – which in St. Louis, that makes a big difference. My hunch is that this is a regional or cultural thing of some sort, but who knows…

So, if you are interested, you can help us in our friendly debate by sharing your experience with the whole grandparent nickname issue in the comments…

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  1. Celesta

    Hi. I used to name both sets of grandparents by Grandma and Grandpa, adding last names for clarity unless we were in their presence. Within the last five years, however, I picked up the nickname for my paternal grandmother from my youngest cousin. The nickname is “Gram.” The youngest cousin uses the name to define their friendship grown from their default relationship as grandmother/granddaughter; it is in no way used as disrespect or devaluing their core relationship. It gives grandmother and granddaughter the chance to be able to have an adult relationship, not just a relationship from childhood through blood. As granddaughters, we want to engage our grandmother woman/woman/friend/friend, so the nickname.

    I hope this helps.

  2. Sheila

    How funny. It never even occured to me that I would choose what my children called their grandparents. I always assumed it was the grandparents choice. 🙂 My parents chose to be called Grandma and Papa. My husband’s parents chose to be called Grandma and Grandpa.

  3. Mike D.

    Assuming your parents and your wife’s parents are still around you can have your kids call your parents by the “boring” names as you put it, and your wife’s parents can be called by whatever “fun” name she’d like. That’s kinda how we did it in my family, my dad’s family is French/Canadian so my grandmother was “Memere” (it’s just the French word for grandmother, nothing really fancy there) and on my mom’s side I called them “Grammie” and “Grampa”.

  4. Leah

    It should absolutely be the grandparents decision, not yours.

    We recently had our first, also the first grandchild for both our parents. We asked them what they wanted to be called, and they were very happy that we asked. My husbands mother wants to be called the vietnamese name for paternal grandmother. My mom wanted to be called plain ol grandma. And my dad was torn between “Lord” or “king.” (I deduced he was mostly joking. Mostly.)

  5. John

    My grandparents were the ones to decide it. My mom’s mom is extremely proper, and wouldn’t allow us to call her anything but “Grandmother,” so that was it. Her husband was “Granddaddy.”

    My dad’s mom wanted me (the oldest grandkid) to call her either “Nanny” or “MawMaw” when I was little and learning to talk, so she’d sit there and say, “Nanny, or MawMaw?” over and over, and I’d never respond. As soon as she left, I started asking, “Where Nanny Mawmaw?” and the name stuck to the point that every kid in her town on the gulf coast knows her as Nanny Mawmaw. Her husband was also “Granddaddy.”

    We told the Granddads apart by context of which one was with us, and if they were both far away, their counterpart “defined” them (e.g. “Grandmother’s Granddaddy”).

  6. Bekki

    We’re expecting a baby on Tuesday. 🙂 We’ve always figured we would let the grandparents decide.

  7. Nicki at Domestic Cents

    This is funny! We have one child. When we were pregnant with her we talked about it and all the grandparents had their great ideas of what they would be called. They all chose names. She’s almost 3 now and SHE tweaked almost ALL of the names. My mom wanted to be Grammie – my daughter calls her Nana. Great-grandma turned into Grammie. My dad wanted to be Pappy – he became Papa.

    So funny. You can pick the names if you want to but your kids will ultimately decide 😀

  8. Cyndie

    I figure it most be between the grandparents and the grandkids. First, some grandparents don’t want to be ‘recognized’ as grandparents — or they just don’t feel old enough to be grandparents. Second, kids have a way of making it their own. My great niece refers to my brother (her grandfather) as Pop-pop and my they (the parents) refer to my dad as Great Pop-pop. She is two and just started saying grandma, but it comes out more as grammie.

    Her parents want her to use first names, ie Grammie Alice or Grammie Carol. It remains to be seen what she will actually do. Someone I talked to recently was disappointed that her grandchildren used to call her MeMa and now they seem to call her Grandma more often.

    For the record my grandparents were Grandma and Grandpa. I never knew there were nicknames for grandparents til I was in my 30’s!

  9. Kallen Thompson

    Growing up in Southeastern NC, my grandparents were Grandma…first name, or Granddaddy…first name. When my children were born, the traditional names stood. However, with my grandchildren…things changed. To start off, my mother was already Grandma Kay and my mother-in-law was Grandma Dean, my daddy insisted on Granddaddy Allen, but father-in-law insisted on PaPa. I was a fairly young grandmother and wanted something a little different from the other grandparents, so we came up with K-ma. Since my first name, Kallen was little difficult to pronounce, this worked out well. I like the traditional Grandma/Grandpa, but when you have so many living grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. sometimes you have to look for alternatives.

  10. Debt Free Adventure

    This is a funny topic, thanks for posting it Bob.

    On my mothers side we have “Ginkgonk & Papa” – Their first grandchild (my cousin) could not say “grandma”…instead she said something like “Ginkgonk” and the name stuck to this day!

    On my fathers side it was always “Opa & Oma” simply because they are of German descent. Actually my father was born in Germany and did not come to the USA until he was six years old; and did not become a citizen until he was 18!


    • bob

      thanks for the replies, I do realize that I ultimately won’t have much a of a say in the decision, but I thought it would be an intersting “off-topic” discussion… 😉

  11. Tristan

    I’m going to mostly leave it up to my kids (when I have them). When I was little, I made up nick names for my grandparents. Actually, on my dad’s side, I called my grand mother “Annie-Grammie” (her name was Ann)…and I called my grand father “Grampa.” However, on my mom’s side, I called my grand mother “Gramma” and my grand father “Pop-pop.”

    I guess it was easier for me to do come up with nick names since I was the first grand child for both sides…so the names I made stuck with them. My kid’s will not be the first grand children for my wife’s parents, so the current nick names for my father/mother in-law will probably be the names we’ll use. But, my kids will be the first grandchildren for my parents, so they’ll probably get to make up names for them. 🙂

    My thought is…let your kids be imaginative (as long as the names they come up with aren’t inappropriate). I think it’s good for them.

  12. Debt Free Adventure

    My parents are “Papa & Meme”. This actually seems to be a pretty interesting one.

    Personally, I hope my kids say, “Grandpa & Grandma”! 😉


  13. Shannon

    We asked our parents what they’d like to be called. My parents chose “Mom Mom” and “Pop Pop,” which is what my mom’s grandparents were called. My in-laws didn’t have a strong preference, so we called them “Grammy” and “Pappy,” which the kids shortened to “Gram” and “Pap.”

    Incidentally, the kids sometimes overrule the names you choose. When my son was about 14 months old, he started calling my mom “Boom Boom” because she was singing to him in the car, using “Boom boom boom boom” in place of lyrics. We also have a family friend whose grandkids call her “Bean.”

  14. Gholmes

    It was up to our parents on what they wanted to be called. All but my Dad chose different names [Grammie, NaNa and PaPa].

    As a little tyke I use to call my Great Grandma – “Great Great” and it stuck as I grew older.

  15. Laura

    My nephew’s name for my mother (his grandmother) is Dadoo! That’s what he came up when he was able to talk. We have always loved it and it’s so natural now to everybody.

  16. Donna

    I had asked my mom what she wanted my children to call her. She told me she would like them to call her grandma. My sister-in-law did not ask and, therefore, decided on her own that her son would call her nana. My mom is not thrilled with the term, but has put up with it through the years. He is the only one that calls her that, the rest of the grandchildren (there are 11) call her grandma. I know that I want to be called grandma and my kids and I have already talked about that. If their other grandma wants to be called grandma, I am okay with them using my last name to identify which one I am. My suggestion is that you talk with your parents and see what they would like to be called.

  17. I have names for aunt, uncles grandma and grandfather. they were all based off of names I couldnt pronounce when I was little though. My Uncle I call Bob-Ba…his name is Bobby and thats just the way we pronounced it and it stuck with my sister and myself? Sometime it just happens that way!

  18. Steph

    My grandson, the oldest, made up a name for me…he called me Nema (long e). He is nearly 15 and privately, he still calls me Nema. None of the other grandchildren use that name, but just call me “grandma”. I love the special nickname that the oldest uses…it is endearing to me. Now on my side of it, I called my grandparents “Mom” and “Pop” – everyone did, friends of theirs, my mother, my friends. I don’t know who started it – perhaps my mother – but that is what it was. 🙂

  19. Linda

    I LOVE THIS RESPONSE! Keep them coming!

    And just for the record, we both know it’s up to the grandparents, and the grandkids too for that matter. I just like hearing that Bob is wrong and not everyone calls their grandparents “grandma” or “grandpa.” heh heh heh.

  20. Carolyn

    I don’t know who came up with the names for my grandparents. I was the middle child so it was well established by the time I knew what to call them. I only had one set and they were called Nanny and Papa. I don’t have kids, but my nieces and nephews call my Mom different names. Two of them call her Grandma and one calls her Gram. She’s answers to both. She never really picked her own Grandma name. I think the kids did. – CD

  21. Greg

    My kids used grandma for both grandmothers and grandpa and granddad for the grandfathers. Easy to distinguish between the proud grandfathers, so to distinguish between the ladies we had to come up with something. My mom lives about 7 hours away whereas my wife’s mother lives in the same town, so we started referring to them as far-grandma and close-grandma. As they got older the opted for adding a first name to grandma.

  22. Katielyn

    Question…. My in laws would like to be called memes and poppy or pop.. I am very old fashioned and before we even had our son we decided it would be grandma and grandpa for both sides… My in laws who have never liked me and always tried to control everything say that I have no say in what they do with my son or what they call them… I say that I can teach my son grandpa and grandma and when my son is old enough to make his own decision he can decide what he calls them…

    What are your thoughts??

  23. Steph

    @Katielyn – I think you are wise to let your son pick his own name for his grandparents. He MAY mispronounce “grandma” and “grandpa” so you can always correct it (that is what my daughter did with her kids and it didn’t take long at all for them to master the two words). In my case, my oldest grandson (see above post) made up his own name for me, intentionally. That was fine too and now it is precious since his nearly 16.