Words for Dad Around the World


Words for Dad Around the World

Languages for “Dad”

Father’s Day is coming up, so I thought it would be great to examine father words in other languages on Word Nerd this week.
English Father Word Origins
English has several father-related terms. Father comes from Old English faeder, from Proto-Germanic fader, from Proto-Indo European pəter.

Paternal and patriarchy come from the Greek and Latin word pater. How did pater become father? Grimm’s law and Verner’s law outline the evolution of Germanic consonant sounds. “D” became “t” and “p” became “f.”

English uses dad and papa. Along with “ma,” “ba,” and “pa,” babies initially say “da.” The ancient word pəter may be a more complicated variant of the baby sound “pa,” from whence pa and papa came. Ma and mama and da and dada, abbreviated to dad, are the same.
Papa, Tata, Baba
Many languages call father dada or papa. Greek, Latin, Czech, Sanskrit, Spanish, Polish, Romanian, Welsh, Yiddish, and Filipino have tata, tad, or tatti. Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Persian, Latin, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Hindi, German, French, Icelandic, and Dutch have papa or papi. Turkish, Swahili, Nepali, Mandarin Chinese, Zulu, Malay, Italian, Indonesian, and Arabic have baba.

Not all languages utilize this format. Finnish and Estonian use isa for father. Basque: aita. Gaelic athair. Aabe, Somali.

Hawaiian makuakāne means “parents” and “male.” Father is called tama in Maori. Samoan uses tama. Male parents are ataata in Arctic Inuktitut.

My sister and I call our father Dado. I’m not sure why we started calling him Dado, but we did, and it stuck. It’s probably because my twin sister and I had trouble saying each other’s names when we were toddlers, so I became Emo and my sister Abigail became Abo. Strangely though, our mom never got an “o” nickname. She’s just mom or mommy. After my sister adopted a dog, we decided our parents needed silly grandparent names, and we workshopped a few, deciding upon Meemaw for our mom, and Flip Flop for our dado.
Words for Father Around the World
Nicknames for Grandfather

In general, it seems like people get more creative with their grandfather nicknames than their father nicknames, but my friend Frank called his dad Sarge. My friend Dawn calls her dad Yumpa. And my friend Jen calls her dad Guy or Hey Guy.

Do you have a nickname for your dad? Does it relate to your cultural or linguistic heritage? How are you celebrating your dad this Sunday?

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