What do the British call their grandparents?

A new survey shows that the most popular terms for grandparents in Britain are ‘Nan’ and ‘Grandad’

Old man playing board game with little girl What do the British call their grandparents
Published: March 11, 2022 at 2:00 pm
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What do the British call their grandparents? Whether it’s ‘Nan’, ‘Gran’, ‘Granny’, ‘Grandpa’ – or ‘Grandad’ or ‘Grampa’ - or any variation on those, the English language has a wide variety of different terms for grandparents. In Britain, it’s influenced by region, social class and family tradition, and changes over time – our ancestors in the 20th and 19th centuries almost certainly had different terms for their grandparents than our children do today.

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Now, a new survey of 2000 British adults from mobile phone design company emporia Telecom has found the answer. For British grandmothers the top five names in order of popularity at a national level are Nan (33%), Grandma (32%), Nana (24%), Nanny (22%) and Granny (14%). Only one-in-ten use the term Gran.

The name Nan is by far the most popular for a grandmother in the English seaside cities of Liverpool (65%) and Brighton (51%). Half of Welsh grandmothers are also referred to affectionately as Nans. Whereas Scots don’t like the name at all - with only 8% of grandmothers in Glasgow and 6% in Edinburgh being identified as such.

The name Nan is by far the most popular for a grandmother in the English seaside cities of Liverpool and Brighton

Nan is even less used across the sea in Northern Ireland with a tiny 4% usage – where Granny is by far the most popular name (43%) followed by Nanny (39%). In comparison Granny is the most adored name for Scottish grandmothers with 45% of people in Edinburgh using it and 31% in Glasgow. Less than 10% of Scots use the name Nanny.

For grandfathers the most popular name nationwide by far is Grandad (68%) - with over two thirds using this name. It is favoured in the north with the majority of grandfathers in Sheffield alone (96%) being known as a Grandad. In contrast only one in five Brits opts to use Grandpa (22%).

Unique names for this generation are twice as likely to be used for grandfathers than grandmothers. Some of the names cited for grandmothers include Boo, Mimi and Nanan. For grandfathers such terms of endearment include Pa, Papa and Captain. People living in Cardiff and Plymouth are more likely to use a unique name for their grandfather and those in Nottingham, London and Leicester likewise for their grandmother.

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Rosemary Collins is the features editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

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