From Queen to Gary: What Will Your Grandchild Call You?

Kathy Simpson

So you’re about to become a new grandparent. Congratulations! This an exciting time of transition with a new baby to welcome into the world, a new role to figure out for yourself, and new trends in childbirth and childrearing to catch up on.

You also have an all-important decision to make: what will your grandchild call you? Many people stick with the traditional “Grandma” and “Grandpa,” but the alternatives are limited only by your imagination (and your grandchild’s).

Queen Elizabeth, one of the world’s most prominent exemplars of tradition, has a grandmotherly nickname that is anything but traditional: Gary. As the story is told, the Queen’s toddler grandson Prince William hurt himself running about the palace one day, and cried out “Gary, Gary!” much to the consternation of household staff. “Who’s Gary?” they asked.

“I’m Gary,” the Queen explained, as she swept in to comfort her grandson. “He hasn’t learned to say Granny yet.”

Gary might not be a top choice in your preferred book of grandmotherly names, but today’s grandparents have lots of options. Of course, it’s always a good idea to bring the baby’s parents into the decision-making process, and remember that when the time is right, your grandchildren may override whatever you decide upon with something precious of their own.

In the meantime, here are some ideas to help you find the grandparent name that’s just right for you.

Traditional Grandparent Names

Many grandparents go the traditional route, finding comfort in the names their families and society have used over generations. The most common pairings are Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Papa, and their variations.

A few alternatives for Grandma include Grammy, Gamma, G-Ma, Granny, and Nanna. Grandfather may be shortened to Grampa, Gramps, G-Pa, Poppy or Pops.

But tradition isn’t for everyone. If you’re inspired to embrace something different, read on.

Modern and Creative Grandparent Names

Actress and grandmother Susan Sarandon doesn’t go by Grandma, Grammy, Nana or anything close to traditional. Her grandkids call her “Honey.” Many grandparents are similarly eschewing traditional names, either because they don’t feel they fit the mold of the stereotypical grandparent, or because they want to be called something they feel better suits them personally.

A non-traditional name can be whatever you choose — from MiMi, GaGa, GoGo and Nannie for grandmothers, to Grandy, Peppy, PoPo and Grandude for grandfathers. But that’s only a start. This is an opportunity to be creative! Choose a name that is in sync with your personality, has a sound you like, and is easy to pronounce, and chances are good it will stick.

Ethnic Grandparent Names

The languages of different nationalities or cultures can be a great source of inspiration when choosing a grandparental name. You may choose to use a name from your own family heritage, thereby sharing an element of your family’s history with the new generation. Or you can shorten foreign words in order to come up with a nickname that’s uniquely yours.

Here is a collection of popular, informal names for grandma and grandpa from around the world. A few countries conveniently have different names for the paternal and maternal grandparents:

  • Belgium: Bomma and Bonpa
  • China: Lao Lao and Lao Ye (maternal) and NaiNai and YeYe (paternal)
  • France: Mémé and Pépé
  • Germany: Oma and Opa
  • Greece: Yaya and Pappous
  • India: Nani and Nana (maternal) and Dadi and Dada (paternal)
  • Israel: Savta and Saba
  • Italy: Nonna and Nonno
  • Japan: Sobo and Sofu
  • Morocco: Jiddah and Jadd
  • Philipines: Lola and Lolo
  • Russia: Babushka and Dedushka
  • Southern U.S.: Mawmaw and Pawpaw
  • Spain: Abuelita and Abuelito

Grandparenting 101

Let Your Grandchild Choose 

Your grandchild may call you by something other than the name you spent so much time agonizing over. Usually this is because the subtleties of speech take time to master, as was the case for Prince William. With time, your grandchild will learn how to call you by your chosen name.

But you may also discover that your grandchild-given name is so endearing (and creative) that you adopt it as your own. At the least, it will be a heart-warming family memory. Who knows: Prince William may still call his grandmother Gary from time to time, which undoubtedly brings a big smile to both of their faces.

Whatever name you go by, being a grandparent is one of life’s greatest joys. Prepare yourself for this special chapter of your life, and enjoy the precious time you have with your grandchildren—before they’re all grown up.

What do your grandchildren call you and how was your name chosen?

We’d love to hear your stories. Please join the conversation by sharing in the comments below!

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