How Do You Say Grandpa in Americanized Polish?

Grandfather playing with his grandson
Thanasis Zovoilis / Getty Images

The Americanized Polish word for "grandpa," used affectionately, is dziadzia.

Dziadek and dziadziu are the proper Polish words for "grandfather" and "grandpa," respectively. 

How to Pronounce Dziadzia

  • Dziadzia is JAH-jah
  • Dziadek is JAH-dek 
  • Dziadziu is JAH-Joo

How to Use the Word 'Dziadzia' in a Sentence

When I was little, dziadzia made dill pickle soup for me.

Poles in America

Polish-Americans are the largest group of Europeans of Slavic origin in the United States, with an estimated total of 9.5 million people, which represents about 3% of the U.S. population.

Poles were among the first settlers at William Raleigh's Roanoke Colony in 1585. By 1608, Polish settlers came to Jamestown, Va., where they worked as skilled craftsmen. But the big waves of Polish immigration occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by those seeking economic opportunities.

Many immigrants were classified as "Russian," "German" and "Austrian" (the latter is true of my paternal grandfather) by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service because Poland, as a country, did not exist from 1795 to 1918, and its borders have fluctuated after World War I and World War II.

The Polish Diaspora

Polonia means "Poland" in Latin and other languages but, in modern Polish and English, Polonia refers to the Polish diaspora, or people of Polish descent, about 21 million, who live outside Poland (around 40 million Poles live in Poland).

Countries with large populations of Poles include Germany, France, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and others. The reason for this reconcentration of Poles elsewhere is because of the country's partitioning due to war, forced resettlement, political strife, and economic opportunity.

Poles were victims of anti-Polish sentiment in American society, partially due to ethnic prejudice against Slavs, in general, and because of their Catholic religion. They were even viewed as a non-white racial group!

It's not surprising, then, that Poles and Polish-Jews emigrated in family groups and settled into Polish or Jewish neighborhoods where they were insulated against bigotry.

Before the Holocaust, Poland had the largest population of Jews in the world, and before the establishment of Israel, they became part of the Polish diaspora that emigrated elsewhere.

Now they also make up the Jewish diaspora. The number of Jews still living in Poland varies by source, but can be estimated between 8,000 and 100,000.

How Polish Words Became Americanized

Many Polish parents wanted to hold onto their language and customs, forbidding their children to speak English at home, which created havoc for them in school. 

At the same time, children wanted to be assimilated into the American way of life as quickly as possible and often shunned their ethnic heritage, refusing to speak Polish.

What often resulted is a corruption of "true" Polish with words like dziadzia for grandpa and busia for grandma instead of the correct babcia. 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

Conversely, native Polish speakers corrupted English with words like na sidevawkoo for "sidewalk," among others.