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The Names We Call Our Grandma

Mother of two daughters and grandmother of seven, I strive to achieve an optimum level of health and happiness. Life is all about balance


Her Title is Bestowed on Her by Family Members

Grandma, granny, nana, or mimi; there are many names that can be applied to the family matriarch. Sometimes the title is chosen because of a language or cultural norm while at other times it is a selection made by a grandchild who is not yet able to voice the traditional title and so shortens the name.

The name selected for a grandma is a personal choice within each family and one that may even be decided by the youngest members of the family. G'ma or gamma are often the misspoken terms gifted to this female role model.

There are many names that we can bestow upon our grandmother and occasionally she herself may be the one to dictate what she wishes to be called. Grandmas aren't the typical grey-haired spectacle wearing ladies depicted from yesteryear. She may be knitting sweaters or she could be off traveling the world.

Most of these senior ladies have gathered a great deal of patience throughout the years. As she no longer has her own family to care for she has an abundance of time and energy to share with her grandchildren as they come along. Generally spoken of with warm thoughts and gifted with hugs she can be so very many things to the ones that she loves.


Shortened Versions Are Common

Young children often shorten words to speak them more easily so it is quite logical why the term grandmother has many versions and mispronunciations.

  • Grandma
  • Grandmom
  • Granny
  • Mimi
  • Memaw
  • Mawmaw
  • Gams
  • Grams
  • Gammy or Gami
  • Gma
  • Mammy
  • Grammi
  • Gamma
  • Nanna

A grandmother is an important person in a child's life. She is often given the role as a secondary caregiver to grandchildren. A figure of trust and security much like the mother is but grandma's attitude often comes with a little more leeway to forgive the small indiscretions of childhood. She has the opportunity to offer unconditional love.

Traditional vs Non Traditional Family Units

A grandmother is the mother of your parent. She is an elder mother. Each child has both a mother and a father and in the same family at least one set of a grandmother and grandfather who are classed as grandparents.

Generally, a person would have two sets of grandparents one on the side of the mother and the second on the side of the father. Today that norm is not always there as nontraditional family units have become more acceptable in our society. We may instead have multiple sets of grandparents.

Divorce, single parenting, and remarriage can add numerous combinations to this scenario. A single parent family may have only one set of grandparents while a remarriage could introduce one or two additional sets of grandparents into the family. For a child, grandparents are generally a special bonus and one that comes with an abundance of additional love and attention.

Every Family Is Unique

Language and Culture Have a Strong Influence

Each country and culture has its own terms for the word grandmother but because we are now such a closely connected global community language barriers have fallen away. No longer heard in just the country where a family originates from, our linguistic twists can be found in any home throughout the world. As immigration moved families from one part of the world to another we carried with us our family language and traditions. It is why you may hear an elderly woman referred to by one of the following names.

  • African: Bibi / Ouma
  • Armenian: Tatik
  • Asian: Nai Nai
  • Cambodia: Yeah / Yiey
  • Croation: Baka
  • Filipino: Lola
  • Flemish: Bomma / Bommi / Oma
  • French: Grandmere / Meme / Mamie / Memere
  • German: Oma
  • Greek: Yaya
  • Hawaiian: Tutu
  • Hebrew: Bubbe / Safta / Savta
  • Iceland: Amma
  • Indonesian: Nenek
  • Irish: Seanmathair / Maimeo / Morai
  • Italian: Nonna
  • Japan: Obaasan / Bassan / Baa Baa / Sobo / Soba
  • Korean: Halmoni / Halmi
  • Polish: Babusia / Babcia
  • Portuguese: Avo / Vovo
  • Russian: Babushka / Baba
  • Romanian: Bunica
  • Spanish: Abuela / Lita / Abuelita
  • Ukrainian: Baba
  • Yiddish: Bubbe / Bobeshi / bubeh / Bubbie

Cultural traditions are carried along to their new country and it is these which are lovingly passed on from elderly relatives to younger family members. Senior family tend to have a wealth of knowledge to share and they are only too happy to pass this information along.

Grandmothers are generally best known for the classic heritage foods they serve. Her recipes are passed down through the family and it is these traditional dishes and desserts that have grandchildren looking forward to her meals with much anticipation. Heritage has everything to do with it. Grandparents are very special individuals.

There are Many Ways to Acknowledge Her

There are many ways to acknowledge her.

There are many ways to acknowledge her.

Don't Forget to Celebrate Your Time Together

There are more than a few holidays that are ideal times to recognize the special bond we have with family and for our senior members. These occasions can be very special. Valentines Day, Easter, Christmas, and birthdays are standard holidays ideal to include grandma into and are occasions which she should certainly not be forgotten on.

When it comes to super special dates to mark on the calendar Mother's Day is traditional for honouring the matriarch of the family and this should include not only mom but also grandmom. These women are the female role models who have nurtured and guided the family through good times and bad. This is their day.

There are also some dates specifically designated to celebrate a grandmother's unique status within the family. National Grandparents Day is celebrated in many countries around the world including in both the U.S. and Canada. In the United States National Grandparent's Day falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day. In Canada, it is celebrated the second Sunday in September.

Many countries celebrate a National Grandmother's Day.

  • France: It falls on the 1st Sunday in March
  • Germany: It falls on the 2nd Sunday in October
  • Poland: It falls on January 21st

I am not sure if Gorgeous Grandma Day is a Nationally recognized holiday but it is one celebrated in many countries including Canada and the United States. Falling on July 23 each year it is a day to celebrate how truly special your grandmom is, so be prepared to shower yours with lots of love and attention. This is your chance to let her know how beautiful she truly is, so take advantage of it.

Which Activity Did You Most Enjoy with Your Grandmother?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Lorelei Cohen

If You Have a Comment this Would be the Spot

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on December 15, 2018:

When I'm in NH, many of my friends are of French Canadian descent. I hear them talk about their Mémère.

Angelladywriter on May 18, 2018:

Nice article. You did not get to include G-mom on your list which I loved the first time I heard this family call their grandma.

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on May 14, 2018:

I was fortunate to have both of my grandmothers (at different times) living with us when I was small. Although there are some challenges with that situation, it was also a wonderful sense of belonging and family.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 11, 2018:

My grandmother used to bring me to school so that became my most treasured memory of her.

Lorelei Cohen (author) from Canada on May 11, 2018:

My parents were both orphaned at a fairly young age so I was not blessed with grandparents but I am definitely enjoying being one. My youngest granddaughter has been slow to learn to speak so refers to me with the very short sweet term of gma while the older ones use the grandma term. They are my greatest treasures.