Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Mother

Granny – Mamaw – Nana – Miss Cindy


Granny Gazzie, Paul, Tipper

maw maw noun Grandmother. Same as ma 2, mama, mee maw.
1968 DARE =  term for a grandmother (Brasstown NC). 1997 Montgomery Coll. (Adams, Bush, Cardwell, Ledford, Weaver).

mama, mamaw noun A grandmother; also a form of address. Same as ma 2, maw maw, mee maw.
1942 Hall Phonetics 77 A curious form is [mamaw], which I heard a middle-aged man use in addressing his grandmother. 1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 135 “What happened to Mamaw Moore?” Martha asked, as Lydia braided her hair. 1997 Montgomery Coll. mama (Adams, Bush, Cardwell, Norris).; mamaw (known to eight consultants). 1999 Hodges Tough Customers 46 Mama sure wouldn’t help.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I grew up with a mamaw and a granny. The girls have a Granny, a Miss Cindy, and a Nana.

All the grandmother monikers in the dictionary entries are still very common in this area of Appalachia. And like in my own family there are various other names used for the beloved grandmother.

A few weeks back I stumbled onto a very funny video about picking your grandmother name. You may have to click the speaker icon on the bottom right of the video to turn the sound on.

No matter what you call them I’m just glad the world has grandmothers. I know both of mine certainly influenced my life and the influence Miss Cindy, Granny, and Nana have had on Chatter and Chitter’s is beyond priceless.


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  • Reply
    Robert Hutchins
    October 12, 2021 at 7:40 pm

    My grandfathers died long before I was born. My grandmothers died when I was 4. Although I have some recollections – mainly their appearance and smell – I don’t remember anything about them other than lore passed to me by older siblings who knew them well. The were called Grandma Hutchins and Grandma Davis. From what I’ve heard, woe betide the one who showed anything but utter respect and deference to both of them.

    I don’t have grandchildren and may not, but a good friend who has a grandchild told me that the secret to the great relationship that grandparents have with their grandchildren is down t a common enemy. LOL

    • Reply
      Robert Hutchins
      October 12, 2021 at 7:41 pm

      BTW: The video doesn’t play for me. I’m logged in. Has it been lost in the interwebs?

      • Reply
        October 12, 2021 at 8:03 pm

        Robert-I got it fixed! Thanks for letting me know it was broken 🙂

  • Reply
    John Kirk
    May 12, 2019 at 9:14 am

    My beloved grandmothers were Bobo and Granny. All of our great-grandmothers were addressed as “Mama Last Name.”

  • Reply
    Donna Isaac
    June 7, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Also had a Mamaw. My sister in Va. goes by “Mocha”–something her grandson Desmond started saying. It works cuz she’s sweet!

  • Reply
    Christie Hawkes
    May 10, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Oh yes, thank the lord for grandmas–for my own and for the opportunity to be one. Thank you for making me smile today. I found your blog through your comment on BlogAid. Have a lovely day!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    So fun watching that , my Momma,and daddy’s mother’s , we called Granny…but my Grandkids call me Grandma…, but every one in our family calls my husbands Mama .”MeeMama”,, started by the first Grandchild,,,,couldn’t agree with ya more about them being a treasure, one I still savor and draw upon, even though they have all passed on….though the ache of missing them ,will well up in me at times, I love thinking about them , remembering sweet memories and joy….every day you have them truly is a gift…. even down to the last days when they were weak, frail, and hurting ,and your love and heart wants them to hurt no longer and you knew the time is drawing near…. God was with us and them even in the difficult times right down to their very last breath…… parting isn’t easy……. till we come together with
    them again… won’t it be wonderful….don’t we have so much to Thank God for 🙂

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 9, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Susan is Nina. Nina (with a tilde) meaning girl in Spanish, but I’m not sure what all went into Susan’s thinking in picking it. I think she may have originally intended to be Gigi, but that moniker was taken by another grandmother.

    Now then, as for me…..

    Two separate dear ladies, Pearl Cable and Delia Watkins, who have been such great help to me, referred to patriarchs in their families as “Grancer Pilkington” and “Grancer Ball” respectively, and both clearly understood Grancer to be their given names. I did some research into their family trees and couldn’t find either one of them. Then it dawned upon me that Grancer (and that is the way both said it) was Appalachian talk for Grand Sir – an old English title given to family patriarchs.

    Both Pearl and Delia were delighted when I told them, and at that moment – which was before we had grandchildren, I knew what I wanted to be called – in honor of an old Appalachian tradition. So I am delighted to be Grancer.

    • Reply
      Susan C
      May 9, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      I was going to be called Nana, but our first grandson started calling me Nina instead. I thought that was sweet, so we didn’t try to correct him. Like Don said, Nina means girl in Spanish. I still feel like a girl in my spirit, even if I don’t look or act like a young girl in appearance.
      My grandmothers were Mama and Bubba. My mother is Mama to her grands but GG (great grandmother) to her great grands. She says that’s because she IS a GREAT grandmother. She turns 90 next week and is very young at heart.
      Happy Mother’s Day to all the Blind Pig ladies.

  • Reply
    aw griffgrowin
    May 9, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Our grand children call us Mamaw and Papaw. My son called my parents the same, but called my wife’s parents Ga and Pap.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 9, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    What a funny video! In Texas, there are lots of grandmothers called “Big Mama.” I never liked that! My all-time favorite name for a grandmother was a lady named Mary, whose grandchildren call her Grandmary. As for me, I’m called
    Gramma Ann.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    My mama was born in 1913 and I never knew her when she could run and play ball with my older brothers. She was born on Mother’s Day and was the Best Mama a kid could have. She’s been dead since 1986 and I’ll Always Miss her, and that’s the way it should be. …Ken

  • Reply
    May 9, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Daddy’s mother died when I was five years old. We were not around her much, so I don’t remember calling her any name. Now that I am older, I refer to her as Mamaw Patty. Mom’s mother was called Mammy by every one of her children, grandchildren, in-laws and even by people who were not related. When my first grandson was born, my daughter asked me what I wanted to be called. I told her it didn’t matter to me. She said I was too young to be called Granny and that Nanny sounded better. Now that the grandkids are older, their friends call me Nanny, as well. My youngest grandchild, and only granddaughter, was acting up at school a few weeks ago. The teacher threatened to tell her mom. My grandaughter told the teacher that was OK because she would just tell Nanny on all of them. The teacher had no idea who Nanny was as she texted that message to my daughter. We all had a good laugh and a long talk about Nanny allowing proper discipline when it is necessary.

  • Reply
    Papaw Ammons
    May 9, 2018 at 10:04 am

    My grandboys called my wife Nana and call their other grandmother Mee-Mommy. My paternal grandmother died when I was 7 or 8 and although I can remember her, I can’t remember what I called her. My other grandmother was Grammaw. She didn’t like to be called Granny so, being the little devil I was, I would call her that then run. She would take out after me with whatever she could grab yelling “Come back here, you little $#!+, when I catch you, I’m gonna beat you to death.”

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    May 9, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Love the video! Mine was always granny. My mother-in-law is grandmama.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    May 9, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Cute video. I had two wonderful grandmothers and the best Mother in the world but we called our father’s mother, Mommy (surname) and our mother’s mother was Momma (surname). Didn’t matter how old our Mother, Father, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins were – those were the names we all used and these women were so precious to us. Both of my grandmothers were godly, hardworking, women with high integrity. When talking about my Mother – “Mother” is the word I always use/used not mom or ma and for my Father it was/has always been “Daddy.”

  • Reply
    S. Taylor
    May 9, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Just last week, my wife showed me the same video posted above. Where I grew up, all female parents of one’s own parents were referred to as Grandma/Gramma with a few Grandmothers sprinkled in. Not until I moved south of the Mason Dixon did I first hear the wealth of variations on the theme including Mamaw, Granny, Nana, Nanaw, and Mimi. We are not grandparents yet (our oldest and his wife have a dog and 2 birds) but I asked my wife what name she would like future grandchildren to call her. She comes from a family where Mamaw is the reigning name but she said Grandma would be best for her. Of course, the other side of this discussion is the names given to the male counterpart of a grandmother. Ultimately, I suspect whatever sounds the grandchildren can utter that suits us will be the name we proudly claim.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 9, 2018 at 8:12 am

    I had a Grandma and a Mommy (my Mom’s Mom).She got that name because she kept my sister while Mom worked and my sister started calling her “Mommy” and it stuck Our one grandson started (who knows why) to call me Gray Gray and it has stuck.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    May 9, 2018 at 7:57 am

    With us, it was always Grammaw, not Grandma. All my cousins called them that. There was Grammaw Helms and Grammaw Ratcliffe, and Grammaw Wilson was my great grandmother. She had no teeth, and dipped snuff.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 9, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Cute video, Tip. So, Miss Cindy works just fine for me but I didn’t pick it. Even before the girls were born I was Miss Cindy. I was dating Bill and his children would not let their kids call me Cindy so they came up with Miss Cindy, that was fine with me. Then when the twins were born it seemed simple if they just called me the same thing, so Miss Cindy it is. The girls have been lucky to have three grandmothers, I only had one and she was Granny.
    So, there s the whole story.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Love it! You all sure seem to be interesting and have a good time.
    I had two Grannys and one certainly helped make me whatever good that’s in me, along with my precious Mother.
    Hard as I tried I couldn’t get my two grandsons to call me Gran-ma-ma so I became Mimi, a protective, secret keeper of ‘we won’t tell Mom and Daddy’ type. The now two big broad shouldered football players are still a wonderful joy, despite the ever present cell phones.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A. Paule
    May 9, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Love the video, we are all gramma in our family, with the first name after to distinguish one from the other as we had so many.

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