The Americanized Polish word for "grandmother," used affectionately, is busia.
Babka or babcia or babunia or baba are the proper Polish words for "grandmother."
How to Pronounce Busia and Other 'Grandmother' Words
- Busia is BOO-shah
- Babka is BAHB-kah
- Babcia is BAHB-tchah
- Babunia is bah-BOO-nyah
- Baba is BAH-bah
Is One Form of 'Grandmother' More Correct Than Another?
Kasia Scontsas, the author of Polish Language Blog, is a native Polish speaker who fleshes out the mystery of "grandmother" in Polish.
- Babka, babcia, babunia and baba are all correct forms of the Polish word for "grandmother." But it depends on your relationship with her, the situation and the complicated vagaries of Polish grammar. Here's what Scontsas says:
- Babcia is the most popular way to say "grandmother" in most parts of Poland. Babci is another form of this word used in a formal sense when talking to someone else about your grandmother. Babciu is an endearing way of saying "grandmother" if you are very close to her and speaking to her directly.
- Babunia is only used when speaking to children about their beloved grandmother in an endearing manner -- "Your babunia is coming over for dinner today." Babunia is also used a lot in children's stories and books.
- Baba is often used by babies, who can't pronounce babcia. It also means “old lady” or “woman” and is considered an insult, unless spoken by a little baby.
- Babka is another rude word used if you do not like your grandmother, or as a slang reference by teenagers conversing among themselves. (It is also the name for a delicious Polish cake).
Incorrect Forms of 'Grandmother' in Polish
Busha, babusza, busia (but see more on this word, below), buba, bubi, bousha are not correct according to Polish grammar. Many of these forms are corrupted ways to say "grandmother" in Polish American families.
That being said, prior to World War II, Poland had a diverse ethnic population with Jews, Italians, Greeks, Russians, Germans, Ukrainians and others living within its borders.
So not all people who emigrated from Poland were not ethnically Polish. Whatever word was used for "grandmother" in their country continued to be used (or a form of it) in the United States.
Additionally, due to the Polish Partitions, for about 200 years, Poles spoke more than one language, usually Russian, Austrian (Austrian German), or Prussian (German). At one point in history, the use of the Polish language was forbidden. So, some Polish families who came to America, used Russian or German words for certain things or people.
In Defense of the Word 'Busia'
Another reason for the use of busia is that in Ukraine (once part of Poland and vice-versa), grandmothers were called babusia, shortened to busia,
How to Use the Word 'Busia' in a Sentence and Other Examples
- Busia always made pączki for me on Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday.
- Kocham cię babciu! -- I love you grandmother.
- To jest sweter babci -- This is grandmother's sweater.
- Twoja babunia przychodzi na kolację -- Your grandma is coming over for dinner today.
- Głupia baba -- Stupid woman
Read about the Americanized Polish word for grandfather here.