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Read the words below :

  • Mother - mama - mammy

  • Father - dada - daddy

Why is father not called fafa or faddy?

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  • 7
    As a sidenote, father is from the old Norse faðir (where the ð (Eth/Edd) has the 'th' sound). The Eth has been dropped from use in the alphabets of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, but is still found in Faroese and Icelandic. However, kids do call their fathers 'fafa' in Denmark, or just 'far'[fah] (Far is the Danish word for Father).
    – Darwy
    Aug 19 '11 at 10:50
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    I got a chuckle out of "faddy." I cannot figure out how to pronounce it that wouldn't be immediately offensive Aug 19 '11 at 14:14
  • 2
    What about papa?
    – GEdgar
    Aug 19 '11 at 20:08
  • Or baba in Mandarin Chinese, among other languages (including English: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/baba) Aug 25 '11 at 17:30
  • Someone pointed out (trying to refute the claim that certain words are innate to the human brain) that "mama" means father in Georgian.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 28 '11 at 17:15
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The term dad has origins in children's speech:

recorded from c.1500, but probably much older, from child's speech, nearly universal and probably prehistoric (cf. Welsh tad, Ir. daid, Czech, L., Gk. tata, Lith. tete, Skt. tatah all of the same meaning)

Daddy is the diminutive of this:

c.1500, colloquial dim. of dad, with -y

The OED quoted here adds more, saying:

Occurs from the 16th c. (or possibly 15th c.), in representations of rustic, humble, or childish speech, in which it may of course have been in use much earlier, though it is not given in the Promptorium or Catholicon, where words of this class occur.

Of the actual origin we have no evidence: but the forms dada, tata, meaning 'father', originating in infantile or childish speech, occur independently in many languages. It has been assumed that our word is taken from Welsh tad, mutated dad, but this is very doubtful; the Welsh is itself merely a word of the same class, which has displaced the original Celtic word for 'father' = Ir. athair.

A childish or familiar word for father: originally ranking with mam for mother, but now less typically childish. Cf. daddy.

?a1500 Chester Pl. (Shaks. Soc.) I. 43 Cayme. I will..Speake with my dadde and mam also..Mamme and dadd, reste you well! [Of uncertain date: the MS. is only of 1592. Harl. MS. of 1607 reads (ii. 678) 'sire and dam', (ii. 681) 'father and mother'.]

1553 Wilson Rhet. 31 Bryngyng forthe a faire child unto you..suche a one as shall call you dad with his swete lispyng wordes.

So dad or daddy stems from baby talk. This makes sense—f is a difficult sound for babies to say, but "harder" sounds like d are easier. Note, however, that just because many cultures share the same-sounding word (dada, tad, tata), this does not mean that one can make a clear distinction of origin. Though tata means dad, it does not provide substantial evidence that dad is from tata. As the OED points out, the form occurred independently in many languages.

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  • 2
    For babies everything starts as gaga (youtube.com/watch?v=VwgkT34g61w).
    – Unreason
    Aug 19 '11 at 9:56
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    Yeah, people assume the baby's saying what they want it to say, so that's what they make their words! :P
    – Samthere
    Aug 19 '11 at 10:47
  • @samthere good point. It does explain why so many languages have some variant on "dada" that seem to have developed separately. People heard the babbling a put a name to it.
    – simchona
    Aug 19 '11 at 10:56
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    With our daughter, momma, bobba and dadda were the first three sounds she made, in that order. No idea who this Bobba guy is, but when I find him...
    – kubi
    Aug 19 '11 at 14:19
  • 1
    Another point along these lines is that, in my experience, babytalk regresses towards reduplication. My two year-old pronounces "Captain America" (a fixture in our household) as "Kukka Mukka". Dec 19 '11 at 22:40
4

It originated from Latin word for father, Tata. In time it became dada instead.

Source: wiktionary

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  • Interesting. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tata#Latin
    – Pekka
    Aug 19 '11 at 7:54
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    Unless you have evidence that it actually did come from Latin (which the sources quoted by the other answerers have all missed) this is unfounded speculation. -1.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 19 '11 at 14:28
  • @Colin Pekka did that for me. Aug 19 '11 at 16:07
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    @Chaos sure, go ahead.
    – Pekka
    Aug 19 '11 at 16:12
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    Your answer presumes that "dada" came directly from "tata", which is not supported by the sources you cite.
    – simchona
    Aug 21 '11 at 0:47
3

The NOAD, for dada reports the following note:

ORIGIN late 17th century: perhaps imitative of a young child's first syllables (see dad).

The note at dad says:

ORIGIN mid 16th century: perhaps imitative of a young child's first syllables da, da.

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