Names for Grandparents
Berkeley Parents Network >
Parenting, Families, & the Community >
Names for Grandparents
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
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
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!
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?
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.
''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
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!
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!
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
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.
A friend of mine used to call his grandmother ''nina'' which I
thought was cute.
''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
Our dad was always ''Poppy'', to children and grandchildren alike.
It's caused a few funny situations though.
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
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:
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).
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
What to call step-grandmother
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
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.
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Check out all the different names at
this page was last updated: Apr 8, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network