Grandparents are the father or mother of a person's own father or mother, being respectively a grandfather (also colloquially grandpa, grandad, or gramps, among other less common titles) and grandmother (also grandma, grandam, granny, among other less common titles). By virtue of being a grandparent, one is also a parent. Everyone 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 involved.
In cases where the parents are unwilling or unable to provide adequate care for their children, grandparents often take on the role of primary caregivers.
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. A stepparent's stepparent is called a step-step-grandparent, etc.
The various words for grandparents can also be used to refer to any elderly person, especially the terms gramps, granny, grandfather, and grandmother.
Great-grandparentsWhen 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, where grandfather/-mother is very rare when referring to a grandparent in person.
Numerous other variants exist, such as gramp and grandpap for grandfather and grandmom, grandmama and grammy for grandmother, etc. Because of the terms' unavoidable familiarity, there are many simplified versions as well, including grampy, granddaddy, grandpappy, etc.
Given that people may have two living sets of grandparents, some confusion arises from calling two people "grandpa" or "grandma", 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 America (where most families are of mixed ethnicity), 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 "Pépère" and "Mémère", or Dutch grandparents might be called "Opa" and "Oma").
The parents of a grandparent are called all the same names (grandfather/-mother, grandpa/-ma, granddad/-am, etc.) with the prefix "great-" added. Thus, one's father's father's father is a great-grandfather. The same applies to one's great-grandparent's parents (great-great-grandparents).
History of the termThe 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. The prefix "great-" represents a direct translation of magnus to English. 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 cultureIn traditional East Asian cultures influenced by Confucianism, filial piety is one of the highest moral values. Grandparents usually exercise their authority on family matters, and their descendants should obey them. This kind of structure has eased with the increasing influence of Western culture and the increasing number of nuclear families.
grandparents in Bosnian: Majka
grandparents in German: Großeltern
grandparents in Spanish: Abuelo
grandparents in Esperanto: Avo
grandparents in French: Grand-parent
grandparents in Indonesian: Kakek
grandparents in Italian: Nonno
grandparents in Hebrew: סב
grandparents in Latin: Avus
grandparents in Dutch: Opa
grandparents in Japanese: おじいさん
grandparents in Norwegian Nynorsk: Bestemor
grandparents in Occitan (post 1500): Grand
grandparents in Portuguese: Avós
grandparents in Russian: Дед
grandparents in Simple English: Grandparent
grandparents in Finnish: Isovanhempi
grandparents in Yiddish: זיידע
grandparents in Chinese: 祖父母