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Here’s why kids have nicknames for their mom and dad

Everyone in the family has a nickname.

And not just the ones you gave to them last Saturday night when they beat you at Monopoly. Parents and grandparents especially have nicknames that come from different origins — some from their international origins, others based on the way they sound when young kids start saying them.

According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 115 million family households in the country. Family members are going to have nicknames for each other, and some come from their own specific backgrounds. Research has been done that links family nicknames from someone’s own personal name, the place they work and where they came from.

Here’s a look at different nicknames we give members of our family and what they mean historically:

Mother

Common nicknames: Mom, mommy, mum, mummy, mamma

A lot of the nicknames associated with mothers come from a variety of origins. For instance, “mum” is primarily how the word is pronounced in the United Kingdom. According to Mother’s Day Celebration, an online resource for understanding Mother’s Day, “mom” is prounced in a similar way in many languages across the world. Some languages — like Quechan, a Native American language, and Neapolitan, based out of Naples, Italy — use “mamma” and “mama” as the translation for the word.

Father

Nicknames used: Dad, daddy, pop, poppa, baba

Why are there so many nicknames for dad?

That’s the question that Dictionary.com is looking to answer. Being that “papa” or “da-da” are one of the first words uttered by kids, there’s bound to be a laundry list of nicknames for dad. So because kids are often to learn those words — and repeat them over and over in a process called reduplication — dads take on a variety of nicknames, like “dada,” “papa,” and even “baba,” which has origins in the Middle East, according to Dictionary.com.

“Pop is the most recent linguistic twist on affectionate names for our dads, arising in America in the 1830s,” Dictionary.com said.

For those looking to take a different take on the word, one blog offered different ways of saying “dad” in other languages.

Grandmother

Nicknames used: Grandma, grammy, gram, granny, gran, nana, yaya

There’s no shortage of different nicknames to give your grandmother. She Knows, a parenting information website, published a list of 120 different names to give to grandma and grandpa, and the list includes gems like “mimsy” and “mamey,” which take a different spin on the “mom” nickname. Other words like “nanny” and “ne-ma” are abbreviations and twists on the “grandma” name, according to She Knows.

Words like “ona” and “yaya” come from different origins. “Yaya” specifically comes out of Europe, and is used by many Greek circles to identify a grandmother, according to About Parenting. “Ona” and “Onna” are traditional grandma nicknames that are still used in America today, according to the American Grandparents Association.

Grandfather

Common nicknames used: Grandpa, gramps, poppi, pops, grandpapa

So there are plenty of nicknames for dad, and a slew of them for grandma. So what about good ol’ gramps? Yes, there are plenty of nicknames for him, too. She Knows’ list of 120 names for grandparents includes an array of nicknames to give to grandpa, including abbreviations like “pa” and “pawpaw,” as well as different takes on the name like “poppop.”

Internationally, the names are not as similiar to the word “grandpa.” The Greek name for a grandfather is “pappous” and the Filipino name is “Lolo,” according to the American Grandparents Association. Other names for grandpa’s include “Nannu,” (Maltese) “Avo,” (Portuguese) and “Jadd,” (Arabic), the AGA reported.

Siblings

Common nicknames used: squirt, the baby, sis, bro, munchkin

What siblings call each other, despite the sibling rivalry, varies considerbly. According to a thread on Yahoo Answers, brothers and sisters have a lot of cute nicknames for each other, like “Minnie,” “munchkin” and “sis.” Others have said that older siblings tend to call their younger siblings things like “the baby,” and “the little one,” since they are trying to take on a big sibling role.

Other nicknames shared between siblings center around real names. For example, “Matthew” may be come “Matty,” or “Rachel” may turn into “Rachiekins.” A lot of it depends on the specifics of the siblings' names.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com
Twitter: @herbscribner