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Grandparents are the mother or father of a person's own father and/or mother. Everyone who is not a chimera has a maximum of four genetic grandparents, eight genetic great-grandparents, sixteen genetic great-great-grandparents, etc. Sometimes these numbers are lower and in the case of having only two or three grandparents sibling or half-sibling incest would be incorporated.

In cases where the parents are unwilling or unable to provide adequate care for their children, in cases of death or other words, grandparents often take on the role of primary caregivers. Even when this is not the case, grandparents often participate in the raising of children.

In traditional cultures, grandparents often had a direct and clear role in relation to the care and nurture of children.

One can also be a step-grandparent. A step-grandparent can be your parent's stepparent or your stepparent's parent.

The various words for grandparents at times may also be used to refer to any elderly person, especially the terms gramps, granny, grandfather, grandmother and even more types that most families make up themselves.

Two individuals who have grandparents in common, but are not siblings, are called first cousins. The parents of a person's first cousins are his or her uncles and aunts.

In the history of modern humanity, around 30,000 years ago, the number of modern humans who lived to be grandparents began to skyrocket. It is not known for certain what spurred this increase in longevity. But it is believed that a key consequence of three generations being alive together was the facilitation of the passing along of information that prior to that point would have been lost. This sort of information might have been for instance, where to find water in times of drought. [1][2]


The Favorite by Georgios Iakovidis

The Favorite, by Georgios Iakovidis (1890)


When used as a noun (i.e., "…a grandparent walked by"), grandfather and grandmother are usually used, although grandpa/grandma and granny are often used. When preceded by "my…" (i.e., "…my grandpa walked by"), all forms are common (anywhere from "…my grandfather…" to "…my Gramps…"). All forms can be used in plural, but Gramps (plural Gramps) is rare.

In writing, Grandfather and Grandmother are most common. In speech, Grandpa and Grandma are most common in the US and Canada, where grandfather/-mother is very rare when referring to a grandparent in person. In Britain, New England[3], Ireland and Australia Nan, Nana, Nanna, Nanny and other variations are often used for grandmother in both writing and speech.

Numerous other variants exist, such as Gramp and Grandpap or pop for grandfather and Grandmom, Grandmama and Grammy for grandmother, etc. Because of the terms' unavoidable familiarity, there are many simplified versions as well, including Gogo, Grampy, Granddaddy, Grandpappy, etc.

Given that people may have two living sets of grandparents, some confusion arises from calling two people "grandma" or "grandpa", so often two of the other terms listed above are used for one set of grandparents. Another common solution is to call grandparents by their first names ("Grandpa George", "Grandma Anne", etc.) or by their family names ("Grandpa Jones", "Grandma Smith"). In North America, many families call one set of grandparents by their ethnic names (i.e., Hispanic grandparents might be called "Abuelo" and "Abuela", French grandparents might be called "Pépé" and "Mémé", or Dutch and German grandparents might be called "Opa" and "Oma").

Languages and cultures with more specific kinship terminology than English may distinguish between paternal grandparents and maternal grandparents. For example in the Swedish language there is no single word for "grandmother"; the mother's mother is termed mormor and the father's mother is termed farmor.[4]


The parents of a grandparent are called all the same names (grandfather/-mother, grandpa/-ma, granddad/-ma, etc.) with the prefix "great-" added, one for each additional generation. Thus, one's father's father's father is a great-grandfather. One's great-grandparent's parents would be great-great-grandparents. To avoid a proliferation of "greats" when discussing genealogical trees, one may also used ordinals instead of multiple "greats"; thus a "great-great grandfather" would be the "second great grandfather", and a "great-great-great grandfather" would be a third great grandfather, and so on. This system is used by some genealogical websites such as Geni.[5]

Individuals who share the same great-grandparents but are not siblings or first cousins are called Second Cousins to each other because second cousins are the grandchildren of your grandparent's siblings.

History of the termEdit

The use of the prefix "grand-" dates from the early 13th century, from Anglo-French graund. The term was used as a translation of Latin magnus.[6] The prefix "great-" represents a direct translation of magnus to English.[7] In Old English, the prefixes ealde- (old) and ieldra- (elder) were used (ealdefæder/-mōdor and ieldrafæder/-mōdor). A great-grandfather was called a þridda fæder (third father), a great-great-grandfather a fēowerða fæder (fourth father), etc.

Grandparents in non-Western cultureEdit

In traditional East Asian cultures influenced by Confucianism, filial piety is one of the highest moral values. Grandparents in non western cultures can hold more authority over the matters of a family such as child raising, attitudes and values. This kind of structure has eased with the increasing influence of Western culture and the increasing number of nuclear families.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

Look up grandparent, grandfather, grandmother, grandpa, grandma in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Grandparent. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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