Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Grandfather – Papaw – Pap – Grandpa

Pap and Ben-the first grandchild

Pap and Ben-the first grandchild

Growing up we called Pap’s father, Wade,  Papaw. Granny’s father, Charles, died when she was pregnant with me-I’ve never thought to ask Steve what he called him.

Steve’s oldest son Ben was Granny and Pap’s first grandchild. Steve and his wife asked Pap and Granny what they’d like to be called and as you probably already figured out they said Pap and Granny.

Even though Steve, Paul and I called Pap’s father Papaw-Pap called him Pap. I’m guessing that’s why he took the name himself when Ben came along. Of course by the time all the other grandkids came along Pap and Granny’s monikers were firmly in place.

Chatter and Chitter call The Deer Hunter’s father, Tony, Papaw. Papaw is probably the most common term for grandfathers in my area of Appalachia. Grandpa would probably be a close second.

My dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has an entry for Grandsir-saying the name was used for grandfathers as well as for older men in general. When Pap tells stories about days gone by he often refers to someone who was elderly when he was a boy as grandsir. But I’ve never heard anyone else use the term.

As father’s day draws near-I’m thankful I had a dandy Papaw Wade. I hear his voice in my head at times and see his twinkling eyes. And there’s never ever a time that I smell sawdust that I don’t think of him.

Although Granny’s father died before I was born, I had a pseudo Papaw on that side of the family-Uncle Woodrow. He was always at Granny Gazzie’s house and he was always kind to us.

I’m thankful Chatter and Chitter have had 2 grandfathers actively involved in their lives-a Pap and a Papaw-they are truly blessed.

What names are used for grandfathers in your family?



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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    February 26, 2021 at 10:52 am

    I called my grandfather Presley Paw, but our five grandchildren call me Papaw

  • Reply
    Brenda Anderson O'Halloran
    June 10, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I was first-born grandchild, so I got to name my grandparents. Grandmother was called “Maa”(rhymes with baa, what sheep say). And grandfather was called Pamp. All the cousins followed suit. When my own kids were young, and We would go visit my grandparents, I’d say “we are going to Maa and Pamp’s house.” My kids would hear “We are going to Man Pamp’s house.” They thought we called them Man Pamp and Grandma. I had no idea what had happened until the kids were almost grown.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    June 17, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Our names were Mema and Pop. Roy liked it best when they would say MemaPop because he said he liked that they realized we were one <3 When our oldest granddaughter's friend was to be married she called one day and said "I have to ask you something -- I'm sending you a wedding invitation and I just realized I have no idea what your names are, you have always been Mema & Pop". And then there was the school report that came home one day with the notation "Cynthia was sick today but Mema picked up her assignments".

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    June 17, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I never knew my grandpa on my dad’s side , he died before I was born but we all called our other grandpa Pa. I wasn’t his oldest grandchild but when I came along it was already in place. He answered every young’un when they called him that even though some wasn’t even his grandchildren. I’m sure Kim has told you about him.

  • Reply
    Bonnie Dunston
    June 17, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I only had one set of grandparents, Granny and Papa. My boys called their paternal parents Mamaw and Pawpaw. Great parents were Mamaw and Papaw Tip. My Mama was Mamaw in Tennessee. ( They used the whole phrase.) Our grandsons call me Meme and my husband is Papa. . Our oldest grandson named me. My husband said his greats were Little Daddy and Big Mama. He had no idea how they got those names but I can just see a small man and a very soft lady. I always wished I had got to know my other grandmother but she died when my Mama was only 9.

  • Reply
    Annette Casada Hensley
    June 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I called both of my grandfathers “Grandpa.” The distinction I made when referring to them in a conversation with someone else was that I added their last name, e.g. Grandpa Casada and Grandpa Ledford. Although brother Jim now refers to Grandpa Casada as “Papa Joe,” I don’t ever remember him using that term in our youths. Loved the info on Grand Sir (and Grancer)!

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    June 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I only had the privilege to know one and it was Pa to all of us grandkids. My other one died back in the 30’s so I just called him Grandpa. I’m so sorry I haven’t been around lately and I missed ya’ll at the Festival. I was suppose to be there along side our Miss Barbara Woodall, bookleggin our books but I’ve been laid up fer quite sometime. Hopin that’ll change soon. I’m so sorry I had to miss seeing ya’ll.

  • Reply
    June 13, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Grammy and Grampy on my mother’s (English-Irish) side, and MaMere and PaPere (sounding like muh-MARE amd pup-ARE) on my dad’s (French) side. I’m the youngest of five, and by the time I arrived on the scene, Grampy and MaMere had passed away, and I only remember seeing my PaPere once…I was very little and just recall seeing a very tall, bald man come up on the porch at the Old House as I was playing (illegally) with my brother’s Handy Andy Tool Kit while the boys were all at school. My Grammy was a wonderful part of my life when I was little…I was probably a terrible little pest, but I really knew she loved me. She lived in a little house right next door and I spent a lot of time with her. Most of my happy childhood memories are of time spent with Grammy.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    June 12, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    On my mommy’s side there was Grandpa. Grandpa’s father lived with him and Grandma. I was the first grandchild and I remember them explaining all that to me even though I was very young. For my Great Grandpa I settled on a name that made sense to me, I called him
    ” Grandpa Father.” Our son later named my Grandmother. He called her Grandma Great.”

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks for the “ancer to grancer”! I just love this term grand sir or grancer for a grandfather! I’d say that term is not being used much in Appalachia anymore, do you think? I have been stalking my brain trying to remember if I ever heard that term from any of my aunts, uncles, cousins, parents or grandparents. I just can’t remember a conversation where it was used or referred to!
    I do remember some being called “cuz” or such. Mama referring to some as “outlaws” instead of “inlaws”, in a teasing manner, I think maybe, I hope! ha…
    My father-in-law would have heard the term for sure. He was insistant that the grandchildren always answered him adding “sir” on the end…Yes sir, No sir and Maybe so, Sir, etc. If they didn’t, he made them stand there til they got it right! That didn’t last too many years. ha
    My Mother-in-law told them to please just say yes and no and please don’t say Ma’am. I’m not your neighbor, I’m your Mam-maw!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Jeanette’s “Papoo” is so sweet, endearing and might I add cute…that’s one I never heard!
    PS…You forgot to take off the one extra post that got on here somehow! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    My mama’s daddy died way before I was
    born, but all my brothers knew Daddy’s
    dad as Grandpa “Boots”. He was old as
    the hills, but could squat (just like
    a frog on a lilly pad) for a hour, then
    get up and walk just as if nothing was
    wrong. One time he walked to Murphy to
    get a strong cough medication for one
    of his sons. He knew the druggist there.
    We called daddy’s mama “Mom” and she
    was a little figgity thing that just
    couldn’t be still. Boots died in ’63
    and Mom in ’67(the year I graduated
    High School.) …Ken

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Grandpapa, Grandpa, Grandfather, Pa. Grandmama, Granny, Mimi

  • Reply
    Jan C.
    June 12, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    My father’s daddy was our Papaw and my daddy was a Papaw too. My husband is called Pop by our grands since it’s what he called his Grandad.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 12, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    My daughters call me daddy, and their
    6 daughters call me PawPaw. My oldest
    granddaughter had a daughter in January so I wonder what she’ll call me.
    That picture of Ben helping in the fields with his Grandpa is precious.
    In reading Don’s comment, I was surprised to learn about the Pilkingtons. Archie Pilkington married
    my aunt. They lived in Canton…Ken

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    June 12, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    My granddaughter knows me as Grandpa Bob and her other one as Grandpa Paul. She’s the only one I’ll ever have, but if I can only have one, she’s the one I’d pick.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    One of my great-grandfathers on my father’s side was called “GrandDad” or “GrandDaddy”. Other than that, the elder men are mostly “Grandpa”; although when they were toddlers the older two granddaughters called my husband “PawPaw” – I was very sad when they switched to “Grandpa” – -not sure why they did. I’m a variety of names: “Grandma” (add a first or last name), “Granma” , “Gramma”,sometimes “Grams” or “Grammy”. It’s like the young ones are constantly trying out new names for me – I just know if the first sound is “G..” they are probably refering to me.
    For a time, my father told my kids and grandkids that he was “Grandpa Jack”, which they enjoyed calling him; but he tired of that and told them just to call him “Grandpa”. When the great-grandkids came along by daughter-in- law started calling my parents “Dorothy the Great” and “Milo the Great”. but that proved to be even more of a mouthful for the little ones than “Great-Grandma” and “Great-Grandpa”,so “Grandpa” is the all purpose word for any male who is not their “Daddy” for their “Uncle”.
    Somehow we all figure it out although it can get confusing.

  • Reply
    Jeanette Minix
    June 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Our first grandchild, who is now twenty-six, called us granny and papoo. She never even bothered to ask if that would be acceptable. It was. We were blessed in that we were able to spend a large portion of our time with her as she grew up. We even taught her to drive and took her for her first permit and later her license. When she got married she insisted that her Papoo play the wedding march on his guitar and be the officiating minister. All seven of our other grandchildren called us granny and papoo. Our first great grandchild is due in August. He can call us whatever he wants to as long as it’s granny and papoo.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    June 12, 2014 at 11:56 am

    We used Papaw for both of my Granddads. We used Granny for one granny and Mamaw for the other one.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I called both of mine Papaw! My husband is called Grandpa by some of the kids and Papaw by others. My grandmothers were called Memaw by me. Brings back sweet memories.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

    B.Ruth-the sound of the word Pap uses is just like sweet Pearls Grancer : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I was never privileged to have known either grandfather. Both of my grandmothers were called grammaw (no n) so had their husbands survived, I guess they would have been grampaws.
    Both my grandboys call me papaw.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 12, 2014 at 10:31 am

    and Don…so interesting that you added more about the term grancer or grandsir, that Tipper mentioned in her post. Let us know the “ancer about grancer”, the sound of the term Pap used.
    Thanks Tipper,
    Just had to put that last note in, it just seemed to fit!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    June 12, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Pearl Cable, the sweet young filly from way up on Pilkey Creek, referred to the patriarch of her family as “Grancer” Pilkington.
    I did a bit of family tree review, using both a printed copy of fine work done by Lawrence Hyatt, who has a family connection to the Pilkingtons, as well as the resources of
    No Grancer was to be found.
    It was in a discussion with the sweet young filly from way up on Peachtree Creek, Delia Watkins, that a light came on for me.
    Delia’s great grandfather Oz Ball, lived to be over 100. She said that his given name was Osborn(e), but that all she’d ever heard him called within the family was Grand Sir; the way she said it came out more like one word, very light on the “d” – if at all. Sort of like when I say Grandpa, the “d” is silent.
    That’s when it dawned upon me that Pearl’s Grancer was a mountain version of Grand Sir. When Pearl heard it as a youngster, she’d understandably taken it to be his given name.
    Pearl’s Grand Sir was Nathan Moses Pilkington, the first of their outfit to call what was then Hubbard’s Mill Creek home. It got to where there were so doggone many of those Pilkingtons (and no Hubbards) running around the area that the name was switched to Pilkey Creek.
    Brother Jim noted at the time (about 2-1/2 years back) that Grand Sire was commonly used in England, and noted that verbally efficient mountain folk simply reduced it to Grancer.
    Tipper, it would be interesting to hear if Pap’s rendition comes out sounding more like one word than two. Please let us know.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 9:14 am

    My granddaughter has three grandfathers. She calls one Pop-Pop, one Grampy, and one Grandpa. I had some learning with the words Papaw and Pappy as my friends in NC use those terms. I only had one Grandparent – a Grandpa and that was it. As children we always looked forward to his visits, especially on Christmas Eve.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 12, 2014 at 8:43 am

    You sure can see the (posture-body shape) resemblance between Papaw and Pap.
    We are Pappaw and Mammaw here! Our grandkids also have a “Pappy” and a “Nana”…the other is called Mammaw this last name or Mammaw that last name, when referring to one or the other.
    I was known by my mother-in-law as Little Mamma! She rarely called me by my name, while I was pregnant and after I had children. Sometimes my nephews and nieces would even call me Little Mamma, after hearing Mammaw call me so…Ha
    There is some in our family that call their Grandfather…”Pop” and there is a “Mimi”, too.
    I had a “Mama Tweed” and a “Big Daddy”! Good ole Southern grandparent names I thought!
    My Fathers parents were known to me as “Granny” and “Pap”, but one of my Grandfathers died when I was in elementry school and I didn’t get as close to him as I was Granny, Mama Tweed or Big Daddy!
    I am interested in seeing other comments about favorite Grandparent names…
    Thanks Tipper, enjoyed this post!
    PS…Did Pap’s Father play and sing as well as Pap?

  • Reply
    steve in Tn
    June 12, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I always called my grandfathers Grandpa Jack and PaPaw. My grandson calls me Pap. It is good to be reminded. These men had a great impact on my life and I still think of them often. I would give anything to be able to spend some time with them now. If you have a Father or Grandfather, or Mother or Grandmother alive now, don’t miss any chance to spend time with them.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I had a Pappy and a Pa.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 12, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I called my dad’s father Paw, there were several grandchildren ahead of me and that’s what they all called him. He was my only grandfather. My mother’s parents were both gone before my mother was married.
    Yes, your right, the girls are lucky to have two actively involved grandfathers.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2014 at 6:07 am

    My Dad’s father died when I was 3yr old and I don’t remember him, but my Mom’s Dad we all called him Papaw, her Mamaw.. One of the cousins called him must Paw,, he just wanted to be different I guess..

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    June 12, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Here in Australia most grandparents get Nan and Pop or Nanny and Poppy from the littlies but I’m Grandad and my wife is Grandma to our nearly eighteen grandkids, occasionally one of the littlies will call me Grandaddy though.

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