Ethnic Names for Grandmothers and Grandmother Names in Other Countries

No Matter What Your Background, You May Like These Grandmother Names

Many grandmothers choose ethnic grandmother names.
Grandmothers usually choose names that reflect the role they expect to play. Photo © Zero Creatives | Cultura | Getty Images

Modern grandmothers are expanding their roles and selecting varied names for themselves. There are lots of Omas who aren't German and many Lolas who aren't Filipino. If you like the sound of one of these ethnic names or a grandmother name from another country, you should feel free to select it, although it's a good idea to discuss whatever name you choose with the parents of your grandchild first.

You also might want to take a look at these FAQs about grandparent names.

Many of these names appear in several variations and spellings. Click on the links for more detailed information, sometimes including a link to an audio file.

Popular Ethnic Names for Grandmothers

These names are among those most frequently chosen just because they sound good and are easy to say and spell. 

  • Filipino: Lola is the most popular grandmother name. Other names used by Filipinos include inang and its variations indang, nanang, ingkong and nanay.
  • French: Popular choices are Grand-mère or Grandmere, but Grand-maman is also used occasionally, along with Gra-mere, Mémé and Mamé.
  • French Canadian: Mémé and Mamie are most often used by French Canadians.
  • German: Oma is one of the most popular ethnic names for grandmother and is often used by grandmothers with no German heritage.
  • Greek: Maybe because it just sounds joyful, the Greek YaYa is a popular grandmother nickname. It's sometimes hyphenated and sometimes rendered as YiaYia.
  • Hawaiian: Tutu is often used for grandparents of both genders, although technically grandmothers are Tutu Wahine and grandfathers are Tutu Kane.
  • Italian: Nonna is a popular grandmother's name, possibly because it is close to Nana and other familiar grandmother nicknames.

Less Popular Ethnic Names

The names that follow don't roll as trippingly off the tongue, and some of them can be real challenges to spell.

For that reason, not too many grandmothers select them unless they do reflect at least a part of their heritage. 

  • Hebrew: Jewish grandmothers typically choose either the Hebrew Savta or the Yiddish Bubbe. Both have several variant spellings.
  • Chinese: Popular Chinese names for grandmothers include NaiNai, Ma Ma, Po Po and Wai Po, but the exact name chosen depends upon the region, the language and whether a grandmother is on the maternal or paternal side.
  • Flemish: Bomma and Bommi are common Flemish names for a grandmother, but the Flemish also use Oma or Omi. 
  • Irish: Seanmháthair is Irish for grandmother, but Irish children are much more likely to use Maimeó or Móraí.
  • Japanese: Obaasan is the Japanese word for grandmother, but Japanese boys and girls are much more likely to call their grandmothers Sobo or Soba.
  • Korean: Halmoni is commonly used, although it can be spelled as Halmeoni or shorted to Halmi.
  • Polish: Babcia, Babciu, Babunia, Babula and Babusia are all variations of Polish names for grandmother. Is it any wonder that Polish grandchildren often shorten these terms to Baba?
  • Portuguese: Both the Portugese term for grandmother and the one for grandfather are spelled Avo, but they have different diacritical markings and pronunciations. 
  • Russian: Babushka is the Russian name for grandmother, and, yes, the Russian nesting dolls are sometimes called babushka dolls.
  • Spanish: Abuela and Abuelita are common terms, often shortened to Lita. 

If you are still undecided about what grandmother name suits you, take this grandmother name quiz. You'll learn more about your grandmothering style and perhaps find just the perfect name!

See names for grandfathers or take the grandfather name quiz.