While I read Nana or Nanna? (When Referring to Grandmother) in wikitionary it also means one's grandmother https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Nana, it doesn't tell whether it means grandmother from father's or mothers side or it doesn't matter ?

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    It doesn't mean anything at all to a lot of people.
    – tchrist
    Aug 5, 2018 at 22:30
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    It means whatever the child thinks it means. If the child has two living grandmothers she likely will call one "Nana" and the other "Mormor", or some such.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 5, 2018 at 22:32
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    In actual usage, it probably means whichever grandmother is Italian. But Italians only have one word for grandmother (nonna), so both grandmothers would get called Nana. Aug 5, 2018 at 22:45
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    It's used in the North of England and I know some Irish people who use it too. But you can't tell from the word alone whether it's the paternal or maternal grandmother.
    – S Conroy
    Aug 5, 2018 at 23:11
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    There are no rules or conventions. In most families it's down to the preferences of the individual grandmothers.
    – BoldBen
    Aug 5, 2018 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


Among Germanic languages, only the Scandinavian tongues make a distinction between maternal and paternal grandparents, conveniently doing so with compounds: mormor, lit. mothermother, is a maternal grandmother and farmor, lit. fathermother, a paternal one.

For grandmother, both German and English originally prefixed mother with old(er): OE ældmoder, ME eldmoder; Low German Eldermutter, Ellermutter, but under the influence of French grand mére, became grandmother and Großmutter. In German, the French for aunt and uncle also supplanted terms that originally made a distinction between paternal and maternal.

Since English has never made a distinction between maternal and paternal grandparents, less formal terms such as nan/nanna will not do so either. Gran, for instance, was my paternal grandfather, but many people call their grandmothers that. To my cousins (father's brother's children) he was Papa, and their mother's mother was Nanna. How these names or nicknames are used varies from family to family with no general lexical agreement.

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