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Names for Grandparents

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Parenting, Families, & the Community > Names for Grandparents


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Need an updated grandma name

May 2009

As a soon-to-be ''grandma'' who is fairly young, I was wondering if there are any names being used out there that are loved and that don't conjure up quite the matronly images as... grannie, grammie, nana Many thanks


My parents were both pretty young when my oldest was born and they put a great deal of thought into what my children will call them. My father likes to be called Grandad, which I think is pretty cute. My mother's side of the family is Native American so she chose to be called Che-e (pronounced exactly as it's spelled), which is how you say grandmother in the native language of our tribe (Tiwa). My son was able to say Che-e really easily by the time he was 15 months old and it's been a special name since we don't really hear it off of the reservation. My Mom likes it way more than Grandma and it's nice little tribute to our heritage too. Congrats on your grandchild!! Che-e's daughter
My Mom became a grandma for the first time when she was 50 years old and certainly didn't feel like a ''granny.'' She goes by Gigi to all of her 6 grand children and loves the name, as do we all! My Dad goes by Pop. He didn't feel like a grandpa either. I also know some grandparents who just go by their first names. It's up to you these days! Congratulations on becoming a grandparent! Anon
How about using ''Gram'' and ''Grammie'' like aunts use the title ''auntie'' and ''aunt'' such that you become Grammie Jane or Gram Jackie, whichever title works better with your first name? Gram
My kids call their step-grandmother ''Omi,'' pronounced OH-MEE, which means grandmother in Austrian/German (I think). It is a loving name and does not have the ''granny'' connotation you fear. Christine
''Grandma'' is what you make it! When I was little, I overheard my mother's mother say that ''Grandma'' made her feel old, and that she would prefer to be called ''Ree'' (short for Marie, her first name). I remember feeling a little uncomfortable with it. I didn't feel that close to her, maybe not because of what I called her, but I think it felt a little less personal and the relationship wasn't clear because of the name. I highly recommend finding a ''Grandma'' type name for yourself. I called my other grandmother Nana and that's what my mother wanted to be called when my daughter was born. But it came out ''Nanny,'' and that's what stuck! So, you may start with something, but it may turn out to be something else! Good luck! And relish the fact that you have a grandchild! I can't wait! anon
Congratulations on becoming a Grandma! I think that you are being overly concerned with age and remaining ''young''. Becoming a Grandma is a special time in your life. Embrace it. I always think that Grandma's who do not want to be called Grandma and want ''Mimi'' or ''Gigi'' instead are obviously trying to act young and therefore come across as older than they really are. And think of your Grand kids- it is so special to have a Grandma that is fun and plays with them- they will want to call you Grandma and when they give you hugs then you will realize the gift you have. Cannot wait to be Grandma
Let me tell you a little story. My husband's mother, who is now about 84, never let any of the grandkids call her ''Grandma.'' When my husband two nieces came along, the first grandkids, she was in early 60's. She decreed that no one could call Grandma, and instead they settled on ''Aba'' (short for Barbara). About 15 years later, our kids came along, and she decided they should call her ''Nonna'' (which I guess is Italian for Grandma; she had taken Italian lessons in the interim). In contrast, my mother, who is about 20 years younger than my husband's mother, and whose first grandkids came along when she was only 50, has embraced the ''Grandma Ruthie'' label from the start. She is a young, very busy, Grandma who does lots of interesting things. And by the way, ''Nonna'' lives just across the Bay in SF, while Grandma Ruthie lives in a far away state, and my kids only get to see her every couple of years. Well, one day, my husband and I and the kids were with Nonna in SF, and my kids were talking excitedly about Grandma Ruthie and something she had done or said to them over the phone. Nonna asked, ''what about your other Grandma?'' It was immediately apparent that my kids (about 3 and 5 at the time) did not understand that she was their other grandma. I could tell she was hurt. But it was her fault! If she had let them call her Grandma, they would have known that she was their grandma. Grandma (or Grannie) connotes a special relationship to kids. If you want to really be their grandma, let them call you ''Grandma.'' Embrace it, and be the young, exciting Grandma who dyes her hair, and runs marathons, or treks in Nepal, or whatever. That's my two cents. Grateful that my Mom is a Grandma
My best friend had her son call her mom ''Amma''... this particular grandma is in congress, so she's definitely a modern woman! love grandmas!
Know what? A grandma is what she is, a lady whose child has a child. Just let your grandchild call you whatever your child called your mom, etc. Let people marvel that you are so young and beautiful, yet still a grandma! anon
We had intense negotiations over ''Grandma'' names in big part b/c both of them really, really wanted the same one and hated the other options. On top of that had such similar sounding names that even adding it after the preferred ''Nana'' didn't help. We ended up just creating a nickname off my mom's name, which we all found really sweet. It felt closer to call her by her special name rather than a title. worked for me
My sons and their cousins call my mother-in-law ''Mimi.'' My mom, after months of agonizing over what her grandsons should call her, came up with ''Grammar.'' But that's probably too matronly for you. Grammar's daughter
A friend of mine used to call his grandmother ''nina'' which I thought was cute. Heather
''Mimi'' is what my mom goes by to her 4 grandkids...she was a grandma at 48. Made my mom a young granny
I had the first grandchild at a young age and my daughter grew up calling my mom, ''Mom'', because that's what she heard everyone else call her. I was ''Mommy''. Mom is still ''Mom'' to us (although my sisters' children were instructed to call her ''Grandma Teresa'') and she truly seems to like it. Our dad was always ''Poppy'', to children and grandchildren alike. It's caused a few funny situations though. gmczene@sbcglobal.net
My 56-year-old mother insists on being called ''Nonna''. Apparently this is the Italian version of grandmother. We aren't Italian, but we love the name. Another cool aspect of 'Nonna' is that my 20-month-old can say it clearly. Supportive of the New, Hip Grandma
My sister-in-law's mother did not want to be called Grandma either. She told the family she would be ''Mimi'' and Grandpa would be ''Papa''. My parents were Grandpa and Grandma. It worked out great. JK
A couple of ideas from people I know: One young-feeling grandma with the initials M.A.K. is called Mak by her grandchildren. Do you have initials that could work? What about a short first name? My best friend's kids have a Granny on one side and a GrandDot on the other. (Dot is her first name.) Granny's husband goes by Grumpy (which he is known to be on rare occasion.) If you have a Grumpy in your life that might work for him. Congratulations on becoming a grandmother!
Here's a fairly comprehensive list: http://www.thenewparentsguide.com/grandparents-nicknames.htm anon
Hi, I wanted to chime in on the ''better name for grandma'' question. When my husband and I had our first child 7 years ago, he was the first grandchild on both sides. Instead of the (expected) rejoicing, we got a lot of eff-ed up reactions from the 6 grandparents/step-grandparents. Because THEY weren't ''ready'' or felt too young to be grandparents. (the youngest was in her mid-50s) It was very disappointing and hurtful. I thought it was sad, and selfish of them. Oh well -- it's their loss, really. My advice is to think long and hard before you embrace & express the idea that you're too young to be a grandma. Be sure to think about this from your grandkids perspective. Don't they deserve a grandma who is excited to be their grandma? Doesn't your child deserve a parent who is excited to be a grandma to his/her kids?
P.s. Now, years later, one of them is trying to switch her name from a ''non'' grandma name to a ''grandma'' name. I'm not going to push my kids to use the new moniker (although I won't fight it if it comes naturally). anon
My mom's side of the family has a tendency to be rather long-lived, so they've made it a tradition to all have different ''grandma'' names to distinguish themselves. For instance, when I was a child I had a ''Nana'' (great-great grandmother), a ''Nanny'' (great-grandmother) and a ''Grandmommy'' (grandmother), all on the one side of the family. While Nana and Nanny have long since passed on, Grandmommy is still with us and the proud great-grandmother to several kids who call their immediate grandmothers, ''Grommy'' (my mother) and ''Marmie'' (my aunt). It may sound a bit confusing, but it actually makes it easier to keep things straight between generations and between different sides of the family. I say go non-traditional! Robin

What to call step-grandmother

Dec 2001

What do people call their step-grandmothers? My father-in-law is about to be married to a lovely woman. This woman has known my 18-month old daughter--the only child and grandchild thus far--since she was born. She has been very loving and attentive, has done lots of babysitting, and basically has always been an important person in our daughter's life. We, and our daughter, have so far called her by her first name. She recently told us that "she was a grandma, too." I assume this means she'd like to be called 'grandma.'

I have no problem with this, but my mother-in-law -- longtime ex-wife of about to be married father-in-law -- does, for perhaps obvious reasons. She is pretty adamant that only she and my mother are the grandma's, and only she and my mother should be addressed as such. It is very painful for her to consider otherwise.

What to do? My husband and I want to honor my mother-in-law's wishes, but in such a way that is not hurtful to my step-mother-in-law. My thought was to approach the step-grandmother with the idea that we should come up with a different, but still special, name for her. Any ideas? How have you approached this dilemma in your family?

Thanks for your advice. Christine


My mother in law prefers "nanny" or "nanna" to grandma, so this helps us distinguish her from my mother.
I haven't been in your situation, but my parents didn't want to be called "Grandma" or "Grandpa," and as a family we settled on Oma and Opa instead.
My husband and both come from divorced parents. So, we have 2 step-grandmothers in our family. We believe that if they act like a grandmother- than that's what they are. Your mother-in-law can have all the opinions that she wants, but the decision is really your child's... Could you let her know that it is not a competition? The more loving people in your child's life- the better for the child!!
We call my step-mom Patty, grandma Patty, etc. She calls herself the "Wicked Step-Grandmother" The biggest difference between your situation and mine is that my mom is dead, so all the resistance was mine not ny mom's...let your child guide you -- if she thinks of this person as a grandmother that is very special and very good.
Coming from a blended family, I feel very strongly that the adults in the family should graciously accept the other, non-biologically related adults as a part of a child's family. Your daughter is lucky to have a non-biologically related "grandma" who wants to love her. Your mother-in-law needs to get over her selfish feelings (perhaps your husband can talk to her gently?) and not let your daughter feel conflicted about having 3 grandmas in her life. Your daughter's well-being should be the focus of this decision, since she is just a child who doesn't need to be entangled in the adults' insecurities. If your mother-in-law truly cannot get over her proprietary feelings, perhaps you can use a name for the step-grandma from another language that is part of your daughter's heritage (e.g. bubbe, abuela, oma, etc.). Good luck.
As part of a blended family, I think your mother in law needs to stop worrying what other people are called, but you didn't ask for an opinion, just advice, and you are trying to be nice & consider her feelings as well, so I'll try to restrain myself. There are lots of "grandma"-ish type nicknames - seems like your step grandma would be satisfied with one of these endearing variations (after all, what she really wants is a term of endearment, not a honorific, right?) and hopefully your mother-in-law won't be too offended. My child and step children call my husband's mother "Ganny." My husband's sister's kids call the same person "Gammy." Variations I've heard friends use are Grammo and Grammy. You get the idea. If you want your child to start using it, you have to start referring to her that way "Ganny is on the phone!" "Ganny gave you this book" etc. From your child's perspective, the more grandmothers, the better!
I had the same problem but my step-mom thought of a name on her own. My step-mom is called "Nana" by my daughter. Another name is "Grammie." Good luck.
In our family, each grandparent has a different title: grandpa, papa, granddad, grandma, oma, opa (german for grandma and grandpa), grams, bubba, etc. This was an easy way around the problem for us and also helped us keep straight who was being referred to.
We have a step-grandma in our family, too. When my child was born, I asked everyone what they wanted to be called. Luckily my mom, the ex-wife of 25 years, was supportive of full grandparentship status for the "new" wife, so on my side of the family, we have a "Grammy" and a "Grandma." My mom felt my daughter was very lucky to have another involved adult, and I thought it would dishonor both my daughter and my dad's wife not to have their relationship recognized on the same level. It seems to me like your husband's mother is still smarting from her divorce and that this is some kind of jealously issue. In reality (mine, anyway!), it's not going to take anything away from her relationship with your daughter if there's a third grandmother. Family configurations are pretty creative these days--sorry, but I think your husband's mother should just get over it. I think step-parents have it hard to begin with, and if your husband's has already shown so much care and attention to your child, I think that should be nurtured and acknowledged.
I would definitely honor the step-grandma's request. My step-grandma has always been a huge part of my life and now my step-dad is my kids' grandpa. But you should also try to honor the "real" grandma's feelings. Maybe try grandma in a foreign language that's part of your family heritage. Or a made-up name--my husband always called his grandmother Hoho. Or just some other version like Gram or Grammy. Once you pick something you have to remember to refer to her that way so the baby learns it!
First of all, it sounds like your mother-in-law is being a bit selfish. You need to do what is in the best interest of your child and not of your mother-in-law. Family is wonderful, the more the better especially when it comes to grandparents. It's unfortunate that your mother-in-law doesn't see it that way. It is fabulous that the new wife of your husband is so attentive to your daughter and it is only fitting that she be treated as a special person with a special name. One idea is to use a heritage language. For example, my mother was born in Germany so the kids all call her Omi. My husband's mother is from El Salvador so they call her abuelita. Even if the she isn't from another country it is lovely to use such a name in honor of one's heritage. Nana is also a common substitute for grandma. Hope this helps.
My step-daughter calls my mother "Grand-Merry", a variation on "Grandmary" that we found in the American Girl Doll book "Meet Samantha." Since my mother's name is Merry, it seemed perfect. When I was a kid, I always used Grandma XXX, with the last name to differentiate which one. But we seem to be going with a less formal version these days, using the Grandma's FIRST name--so "Grandma Sharon" is my stepdaughter's mother's mother. Other "grandmother names" I have heard used include "Nana", "Tata", "Grammy" or many names in other languages. For instance, if your step-mother-in-law is French, you might use the french name for Grandma (Grandmere, I think?), to differentiate her from your daughter's "regular" grandparents. I really like the idea that you would collaborate with the step-grandma to find a name that everyone is comfortable with. I suspect she'll like it too.
My son calls my stepmother "Grantique," which is a bit weird, but her nieces call her "Auntique Jane." He calls my mother-in-law "Nana" and my mother "Nonie" because she didn't like "Grandma." There's also "Nona" (Italian), "Grammy," "Mima" (Spanish), "Nonny," and "Mimi." My godmother's grandchildren call her "Gigi" (hard G's) which is short for "Gisela," her first name. Any pet name would work. Good luck!
I have strong and very personal feelings about this question. I have two children, two parents, and until earlier this year, two step-parents. I was raised calling one of the step parents Dad and the other by her first name (her choosing, not mine). My separate families were threatened by each other while I was growing up, and fought with each other bitterly. My step mom was particularly threatened and was cold toward me. I decided that I didn't agree with and wouldn't perpetuate the rigid notions of families that my parents all had. In spite of her behavior so many years ago, I have always told my kids I had two moms and two dads and they have many grandparents who love them. When my first child was born my step mom began signing cards "mom and dad" for the first time ever. I never entertained the idea of my kids calling her anything other than grandma. She died this year from cancer. She had the chance to make up for her earlier misdeeds by being loving with my kids and eventually, with me. It came to pass that my two children were her only grandkids.
I guess I'm familiar with both approaches. I called my step-grandmother "Ann." Since I did that from a very young age, it never seemed odd to me that I didn't call her some variation on "Grandma," as I did my other two grandmothers. I'm not sure whether we called her Ann because that's what my dad called her, or whether she just didn't want to be reminded that she was old enough to be a grandmother! Anyway, she certainly didn't seem to mind. On the other hand, my daughters have referred to my stepmother as "Grammie," and my stepfather as "Grandpa," even though I have referred to them in front of the girls by their given names. Neither my mother or father seemed bothered by this naming convention, perhaps because they were also step-grandparents. Your idea of finding an alternative name (such as Nana?) seems a good compromise. Good luck on your decision.
The grandparents on both sides of our family were divorced, so my kids have two "step-grandmas" and one "step-grandpa" as well as a half-aunt and half-uncle. I think we're a little luckier than you, as none of our parents have ever insisted on exclusive rights to the name (on the other hand, we never really gave them an option). My advice is to focus on your child's needs. It sounds like your step-grandma has been every inch a "real" grandma from the day your child was born...and trying to establish her as somehow a lesser grandparent seems comparable to (for example) my parents insisting on distinguishing between my adopted son and my biological son (they don't). Family is more about love and action than blood. If you feel you must smooth things over with your mother-in-law, perhaps you could choose a different traditional grandma name? Not lesser, just different. We have to distinguish between four grandmas, and we have a "Grandma Bee" (biological), a "Grandma Louise" (step) a "Moma" (bioligical) and a "Nana" (step). You could also see what your child first calls her...maybe she'll create her own special and unique grandma name. And perhaps you could gently point out to your mother-in-law that her grandchildren can only be blessed by additional grandparents...and that it can't possibly make her any less special to them.
What about calling her Nanna. I know other families in the same situation and to avoid hurt feeling the call their Grand Mother Grand Ma and their Grand Ma-in-Law Nanna. That way no one feels left out and everyone is happy.
My father's wife is named Ruth and we have the grandkids call her "Grand-Ruth." Works nicely with that name, I think. Not sure if it works with all names...
Both my husband and I have divorced and remarried parents, so my kids have had five grandmas (one a great grandma) and three grandpas. As a result, we have fair experience with the issue. Fortunately, our parents have not resented each others' spouses enough to make an issue of names, and my mom and her husband quietly adopted different names that simplify matters for everyone. My mom is "Grammy," and her husband "Poppy"; the rest are "Grandpa" or "Grandma" followed by their first names (e.g., "Grandpa Bob," "Grandma Sally"). My grandmother (the kids' great grandma) is Gram. Others I know with this dilemma use Granny or Imah (hebrew for Mother). There are plenty of options. Good luck.
My children have a step grandmother and they either call her Grandma Isabel or Abuela (Spanish for Grandmother). When I grew up we called our grandmothers "Nana" and my husband called his grandmother "Yaya" (Greek). Maybe you should ask your children's stepgrandmother if there was a special name she called her grandmother and use that title for her and "grandma" for the others.
We went through similar naming things with my children's grandparents, some step, some not, but lots of them (when they were very young, my children had 3 great-grandparents; now they are down to two), and what to call them. Here is how we solved it, and no one seems bent out of shape, except my Dad, who claims he is too young to be called the "G" word, and therefore we make it a point of calling him "Grandpa Vic." Great-grandparents got called the names we (the parents) used for our grandparents, which were Omi and Pop (German style grandparent names), and Great-gramma. Husband's parents are called Meema and Papa (names my children's older cousins came up with). Wife's parents (divorced) are called by affectionate nickname, Annie (she didn't want to be Gramma, because that's what her mother was) and Grandpa Vic (aforementioned). Annie's husband, the step-grandfather, is called Zaydie, which is a Jewish variation on grandpa, and he loves it. Grandpa Vic's wife, the "step-grandmother," is called by her first name, no diminutives or nicks because she is same age as his youngest daughter, and did not request any grandmotherly titles... Keep in mind all the cultural variations on Grandma - Nonnie, Nonna, Oma, etc. Annie even tried out Mamasita for a while, but that didn't work for her.
My father's mother and father were divorced and both remarried. We never called them anything but grandma and grandpa. As far as we (us five kids) were concerned they have always been our grandparents. So we had three sets. It was no big deal. The only thing is we never discussed one set around the other set and we never pitted one against the other. We were close to all of them, including great aunts and uncles as well on all sides. My own stepmother is grandma to my kids (although sometimes they call her Grandma Mabel). The new grandma is entitled to be called grandma if she wishes. When someone marries into the family they become part of it, no matter what one person says. Blood ties do not make a family member. There are many names for grandma. My cousins always called our mutual grandma "nanna" while we used "grandma". It sounds like your mother-in-law is the one with the problem and needs help dealing with it. Her grandchildren will not love her any less just because they have another "grandmother" in the family, but they might not like being around her should she bad mouth this new person in front of them. Sounds like she feels threatened. How does your mom feel about it? Maybe she can help talk to her about it. A family can be many things. There are no traditional families anymore. I'm not saying your mother-in-law should become best friends with her ex's new wife, but she should consider the possibility that they will meet at some future family get-together. It will do no one any good should she continue with her unreasonable behavior.
Perhaps you could use Nana - or Noni or another name that means grandmother in another language. In my family, my stepmother graciously encouraged us to use Aiti (pronounced with a long A - like "AT&T") instead of grandma, so that we could avoid offending my mother... She thought it meant grandma in Finnish. Wherever it originated, we think Aiti sounds better than grandma anyway and we really appreciate her for coming up with such a great solution! Have fun and good luck to you!
There are some great names for grandmother from different places and cultures (see link below). Growing up we called my grandmother "Mammo" (even though all the other cousins called her "Grandma"). I think it's a case of a rose by any other name would smell as sweet... It's definitely the love that counts. And I agree with the step-grandma, sounds like she's definitely a 'grandma' whatever name you come up with! (and the more the merrier; hope the ex can come to realize that her granddaughter will be all the luckier to have lots of loving adults in the picture!) Check out all the different names at http://www.thenewparentsguide.com/grandparents-nicknames.htm
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