What the Polish Name for Grandmother Is

See All the Diverse Variations

I love you, Grandma! Polish words for grandmother
Nevena Zlateva / Moment Open / Getty Images

The Polish word for grandmother yields a long list of words, but many of them are not regarded as authentic. The true Polish name for grandmother is babcia, used when speaking about one's grandmother. It's pronounced "bob-cha" or "bop-cha." Babciu, on the other hand, is a term of endearment used when speaking to one's grandmother. It is pronounced "bob-chew" or "bop-chew." Lastly, babunia is another term of endearment that's properly used when speaking to children about their grandmother, as in, "Do you want to go see your babunia?" It's pronounced "bob-oo-nee-uh."

Additional variations, while not authentically Polish, include:

  • Babula
  • Babusia
  • Busia
  • Babka
  • Baba
  • Busha
  • Babusza
  • Buba
  • Bubi
  • Bousha

Selecting Which One to Use

Determine which word to use with your relative based on your relationship to her and the situation. If you're very close to your grandma and are talking to her directly, you can say "babciu." Think of it as a way to refer to her while telling her that you love her.

If you're just chatting with or about her in general, you can simply say "babci." Everyday phrases about your grandmother might be "I'm driving to my grandmother's house," or "This is my babci's scarf."

While those two terms are the most popular, you may also want to opt for using "babunia" if you're talking to kids about their grandma in an endearing manner. This is used in a sentence like, "Your babunia is making potato pancakes today," but her title would still be babcia. The word babunia is most frequently found in children's storybooks.

Avoid using baba, which is only acceptable by toddlers who cannot pronounce babcia. Similarly, you wouldn't want to say babka, which is considered an insult to grandmothers by many teens with their peers.

Origins of the Term

Prior to World War II, Poland had a large population of Jews, Italians, Greeks, Russians, Germans, Ukrainians, and other ethnicities. Some of the Polish terms for grandmother may derive from their languages. For example, babusia may be derived from the Russian babushkaBusia may be a shortened form of babusiaBabula may be a variant of babulya, which is a Russian form of endearment for a grandmother.

According to the partitions (the change of political borders) in Polish history, the Poles spoke more than one language for about 200 years. Primarily, they spoke Russian, but languages like Austrian-German or Prussian (German) was also used. In fact, some of those time periods didn't allow the Polish language to be taught or spoken, so adopting other words and cultural habits from other countries was common.

Polish Family Culture

Poles are expected to marry young, have children, and stay with a single spouse for a lifetime. The traditional family unit in Poland consists of a husband, wife, children, and the husband's parents. Multi-generational households are common in Poland, although such composite households are less typical than they used to be. In urban households, when both parents work, the grandparents often take on childcare

Poland is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, with around three-fourths of the population being observant. Many Poles have a strong emotional connection to the church, which they see as an ally in tough times. Poland is also very ethnically homogeneous, and these aforementioned factors may contribute to the country's reputation for clinging to the old ways. Folk medicine is also still practiced, and the population keeps traditional folklore alive at folk festivals, weddings, and religious holidays.

Gender equality has also been slow to come to Poland. Women are under-represented in top-paying jobs, and those who work outside the home typically still do the majority of household chores.

Polish Holidays and Festivals

Many holidays and festivals are celebrated in Poland, with most of them being religious in origin. Both locals and tourists participate in these festivals for fun or cultural observance. For instance, Easter is celebrated in Poland from Palm Sunday to the day after Easter Sunday, which is called Wet Monday. On Wet Monday, there's a tradition where boys drench girls by pouring containers of water on them.

Christmas Eve, or Wiglia, is another special time for families to gather and heal any family rifts. For instance, a traditional belief is: whatever happens on Christmas Eve, it will be repeated for the rest of the year. Thus, a harmonious Christmas Eve will lead to a harmonious year.

Following midnight mass, Christmas is celebrated with a feast that often features a roasted goose. You can expect most Polish grandmothers to make delicious dishes for holiday gatherings, such as Polish gingerbread cookies, stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa, and king cake.