What do you call the grandparents?

Your own or what your children call them…

I called mine Grandma and Bonmama.  I didn’t have grandfathers (or rather, they died long before I was born).  My partner called his Grandma and Grandpa Firstnames and Grandma and Grandpa Lastname.

#2 goes with Grandmom and Grandpop Lastname.

Our children are lucky enough to have a full set of four grandparents.  They are:

Grandma and Bonpapa


Nana and Grandpa.

Grandma and Grandpa are the defaults (and there’s nothing the least bit French about Grandma).  Bonpapa just makes sense because he’s Bonmama’s son.  Nana didn’t want to be called Grandma firstname or Grandma Lastname and after much thinking about the topic decided she wanted to be Nana.  Her wishes are respected by all five grandkids.  So that’s why the names aren’t organized in a way that would make sense.  (I admit this bothers me a little bit.)

How about you and yours?

37 Responses to “What do you call the grandparents?”

  1. Practical Parsimony Says:

    My mother’s father was killed before she was born. My father’s father died when he was a teen. So, no names for them. However, when my cousin and I discuss genealogy, we just say John for our fathers’ father.
    My mother called her grandmother Maw. I called my grandmother Memaw. My children called my mother Memaw. My grandchildren call me Memaw. My children called my father Pepaw because that is what came out when my son, the first grandchild, tried to say Grandpa. Those were my parents–Memaw and Pepaw. They called my husband’s parents “Grandma what ever last name” of eight husbands she was married to at the time. They called his father Grandpa.

    Now, my children say “my Memaw” when they are talking with me about relatives who are dead because when I say ‘my Memaw,” I mean a different person than when one of my children talks about Memaw.

    My children never questioned why husband’s mother changed which Grandma she was that year.

  2. eemusings Says:

    I only ever really knew one grandparent – paternal grandma, and we called her ‘ama’ (Chinese). My other grandma we didn’t see as much and she’s now dead. Both grandfathers died before I was born.

  3. plantingourpennies Says:

    On one side it was usually grandmother (a formal relationship) but sometimes grandma, and on the other (maternal) it was Gram and PopPop (shortened to Pop when we got older and too cool to be walking around saying PopPop).
    Oddly Mr PoP also has a PopPop on his side of the family, but it was his maternal great grandfather.

    (sidenote- writing pop so many times just now has made me wonder if our choice of blog acroynym was subconsciously influenced as these were some of the best men we ever knew in our lives.)

  4. Sapience Says:

    My paternal grandmother died before I was born, and since I was the oldest of my generation of the family, no one ever called her anything but her first name– like “Pat, your grandmother, would…” My maternal grandmother was Grammie. My mom’s dad was Grandpa [Last name] and my dad’s dad was Grandpa [First or Last Name], though we pronounced Grandpa more like “Grampa” in his case. He would also occasionally get called “Papa [First Name].”

  5. Emily @ evolvingPF Says:

    On my father’s side, we called them Grandpa and Grandma (Firstnames). I don’t remember ever addressing my maternal grandmother, so maybe just by her first name. My maternal grandfather decided a few years ago that he didn’t like “Grandpa” so we are supposed to call him “Grandfather,” which I find awkward so I mostly use his first name.

    In my husband’s family, they use Grandpa and Grandma Lastname. The last time I visited I was trying to figure out if it was a regional thing, because it seems strangely formal to me to use last names instead of first names. They are from the midwest, but so are my father’s parents, so I’m still stuck.

    • delagar Says:

      My grandparents were always Grandma/Grandpa Lastname, too, Emily, and were also from the midwest.

      My own kid & my brothers kids call my parents just Grandma and Poppa. On the other side, one set of grandparents is Greek, so the grandmother is Yaya. I forget what the grandpa was called (he’s been dead for years.) On our side, my husband’s parents have been dead since the kid was young, but she called them Grandma/Grandpa First name before they died.

  6. Leah Says:

    I only knew two of mine (paternal), but we talked about all four. It was always “grandma and grandpa Last Name” for all four. Upcoming, though, my mom has expressed that she wants to be call Nona (I think that’s how to spell it). Not sure what to do for the rest. Two area already called grandma and grandpa. I guess we’ll finishing crossing that bridge when we get there — we have time.

  7. bogart Says:

    I had a Granny and a Granddaddy (one of each, one for each parent), and the others were deceased and didn’t get discussed much but if they were, got the same labels. Well, I think my dad’s (deceased) mother was usually just referred to as “Your Grandmother,” if at all in reference to me. My stepchildren have (or have had) just Grandma firstname and Grandpa first name with a great- thrown in for the generation before that (they knew many of their greats. On average, my family delays childbearing, while my husband’s does not. Though he didn’t become a dad ’til he was nearly 30 (!!!) which was ancient by their standards).

    My son has the same setup, a Granny and a Granddaddy on my side and two Grandpa firstnames and Grandma firstnames on DH’s (two are steps, obviously).

    We have recently learned we are going to become grandparents :) :) :) (step in my case), so will also need to make this decision about ourselves. My basic inclination is to continue to use our family-of-origin labels, which wins for consistency, on the other hand, I feel young to be a “granny,” even more than I feel young to be a “grandma.”

  8. Linda Says:

    My maternal grandparents were Grandma and Grandpa. (Pronounced gramma and grampa, though.) My paternal grandparents were Mimi and Pipi (the pronunciation of the i was ĭ). My father’s side of the family was French Canadian in the way back times (settling in the US via Michigan) and the family lore was that Mimi and Pipi was the French Canadian version of Grandma and Grandpa. I’m not sure if there is any truth to that, though.

    Once my paternal grandparents were both dead, my father and stepmother insisted on being called Mimi and Pipi by their grandchildren. It just seems weird to me, especially when coupled with all the other strange “death cult”-like rituals my father and his siblings carried on for so long. (Really, was it necessary to have a freakin’ altar set up with huge photos at the family reunions for years? Especially when there were times some of us really needed the limited picnic table space?)

  9. Debbie M Says:

    Grandma and Grandpa (pronounced gramma and grampa) Miller

    Great Grandma Miller

    Great Great Grandma Miller

    Grandma and Grandpa Wilharm – until they got divorced and re-married. Then it was Grandma and Grandpa Eklund and Grandpa Wilharm and Grandma Dottie (first name). (Because Grandma Wilharm had already been used!) Grandpa Wilharm’s third wife was just Lorraine. (We were all adults when we met Lorraine, so she insisted!)

    Great Grandma West and Poppy West

    (I’ve had more grandparents than cousins!)

    I think my parents are also going with Grandma and Grandpa–my sister specifically asked them what they wanted to be called, which I thought was awesome, and they thought about all the different options but I think they ended up with our usual, though I know my mom was toying with Jewish versions to see if she liked the sound.

  10. sarah Says:

    Growing up, we always called our grandparents “grandma/grandpa last name.” Now my child calls his grandparents “grandama/baba state they live in.” Not sure where he got baba from, which is grandmother in eastern European languages and father in Arabic. Apparently this is a common sound/word/series of letters for children?

  11. Zenmoo Says:

    My parents are called Granny & Pukka. Not sure where Pukka came from – it was my daughters invention. It is nicely distinctive though. My husband’s parents are Nana and Grandad. Nana also gets ‘Nana in New Zealand’ to differentiate her from my mother’s mother who is also Nanna. She is usually just Nanna, but sometimes is ‘Nanna in Australia’ or ‘Nanna with wobbly legs’. She uses a walker and we explained once to my daughter she had to be careful not to knock NanNa over because she had wobbly legs and it stuck. She signs cards Nanna Wobbly Legs. My husband’s recently dec Nana was called Old Nana by my daughter. Sometimes she’s now referred to as ‘old nana who died’. Descriptive, but perhaps not tactful.

  12. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I called both sides “Grandma” and “Grandpa,” although they all died when I was fairly young. My oldest daughter calls Greg’s parents “My Johnsons!!!”

  13. chacha1 Says:

    I had a Nana + Granddad, and a Grandma June (+ Grandpa Vern, they were divorced I think before we were born (around that time anyway) and I only met him once after attaining the age of remembering it).

  14. ntbw Says:

    My older son “named” my parents (his only grandparents). His grandfather is Poppa, which is what my was encouraged to call him. His name for his grandmother requires some explanation. We tried to get him to call her “Nana,” but he had other ideas. When he was about 18 months old, she spent much of a visit playing “pattycake” with him. The next time he saw her, a few months later, the first thing out of his mouth was “Patcake!” And that’s what he called her from there on out. So now both my kids and my brother’s child all call my parents Poppa and Patcake.

  15. omdg Says:

    italian side = nonna and nonno
    american side = grandma and grandpa

  16. Chris Says:

    My mother’s parents were Nony and Bompa (passing down what my oldest aunt called her grandparents as a baby – my mother’s grandparents were Nony – last name and Bompa – last name to me). My father’s parents were Grandmamma and Granddaddy and we even now refer to them as such (though they have passed away). Since I had such distinct names for my grandparents, I’m a bit disappointed that our parents are all Grandma first name and Grandpa firstname to our kids. I had hoped that something cuter would catch on. I blame it on my daughter, the first grandchild on both sides, who spoke very early and never had trouble pronouncing the “usual” names so she never came up with a “cute” name for them.

  17. Foscavista Says:

    Maternal side: Granny and Grandpa

    Paternal side: Grandma [ My last name] She was a widow before I was born. Although she remarried, I couldn’t change to the new last name.

  18. Happy Says:

    My grandparents were (Polish) Bobci and Dziadzu and (French) Gram and Papa. My Polish mother ditched tradition and is Mimi (she couldn’t handle being called any form of grandmother at ‘her age’). My French father followed in his father’s footsteps and is Papa. Gram is now a great and great-great. One of the oldest greats called her “Lil Gram” which stuck and is what my son calls her. His other grandparents are Grandma and Grandpa.

    • Flavia Says:

      We called both sets of grandparents (Italian and Polish) Nana and Jaju, the latter a phonetic rendering of Dziadzu. Not sure why. My great-grandmother was great-nana.

      But as a kid I was aware that these were unusual names, so from a pretty early age I referred to them, to my friends/classmates, as Grandma and Grandpa even though I never used those names with them or within my family.

  19. Katherine Says:

    Paternal side (Danish): Farmor and Farfar

    Maternal side: Grandma (although she passive-aggressively tried to get us to call her “Grandmother” by signing birthday cards and Christmas gifts that way) and Granddad (he died before I was born, but he was always mentioned as “Granddad” or sometimes “your Granddad”)

    My Grandma’s great-grandparent name is GG.

    My mom has already declared that she wants to be called “Marmee.” We don’t have kids yet, but she is desperate for grandchildren.

    My BIL and his wife had a baby last year, and we got to approve my in-laws’ grandparent names, since they are desperate for more grandchildren and hope we will provide them with some soon. My MIL is Gram, and I don’t remember what her wife decided. My FIL was having trouble deciding, but his wife was pushing “Papi”. She is Nana.

  20. Anon5 Says:

    Granny and Grandad (Last name) for both sides. For DC1 we suggested Nana (First name) and Grandpa (First name). However, ze has ignored the “Grand” bit, and calls all hir grandparents by their first names! My mother really didn’t want to be called Granny, as I think it would have made her feel old…so, while it feels a bit odd for my child to be calling hir grandparents by their first name, in other ways seems a lot more normal than Granny…

  21. Rented life Says:

    I had 3 sets because of divorces. Grandpa last name, wife’s first name–she never seemed like a grandma to me. Grandma and grandpa last initial (long polish name), and the mom’s parents were grandma and grandpa last name. We now call my parents grandma and grandpa (no last names added, as it’s unlikely our son will know his paternal gp

    • Rented life Says:

      Hit done too soon..my mom said she will be happy with whatever nickname our son gives her. And great gram is “Gigi”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oh I forgot about the divorces in my family too. The grandmother on that side I just call by her first name, but my brothers call her Grandma Firstname. They call their other grandmother (my Grandmom) Grandma Lastname. I think my father’s mother (Grandmom Lastname) also gets called Grandma Lastname by some of her other grandchildren. The “Grandmom” instead of Grandma came from my mother’s family and got applied to both.

      My cousin’s children call their grandmother (my aunt) Grammy. I guess she chose that to distinguish herself from Grandma (who is GG to them)?

      We have a big family but we all know who we mean.

  22. J Liedl Says:

    My grandparents were Grandpa Max, Grandma Lou and Grandma Lee (her given name was Martha but she preferred formality). My maternal grandfather died while my mother was a teenager, so he was always “Your grandfather Walter.”

    We asked our parents to provide us with the names they wanted to be known by for their grandchildren. They opted for (maternal grandparents) Nanna, Boppa, (paternal grandparents), Granny and Grandpa.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever be a grandmother and, if so, what the child or children will call me. Hopefully there’s still quite a bit of time before the issue arises because my girls, while older teens, are still far from being ready for parenthood.

  23. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    I had two sets of Nana and Papa + lastname (shortened in the case of a difficult-to-pronounce last name on one side), with one Papa deceased since several years before my parents’ marriage, but nevertheless referred to fairly regularly. My father has gone with Papa lastname (matching his own father — the grandfather who lived to my early adult years), while my stepmother/his wife is called Nana firstname, probably because the grandchildren’s parents — my sibling and sibling-in-law — and I all call her by her first name, having met her as an adult. I’m pretty sure she resents the distinction being made, but she resents a lot of things, and hasn’t gone out of her way to build the sort of relationship with either the parental or the child generation that would either render the difference unimportant, or encourage them to use terminology that erases the biological/step distinction. There’s something of a vicious cycle there. When speaking of our late mother to the children, my sibling and I generally use that designation — “our mother” — rather than one that emphasizes the grandparental relationship to the children. So Nana ourlastname isn’t exactly taken; it’s just not used.

  24. Link love | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] A sweet throwback comment thread on what our readers call their grandparents […]

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