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Grandma vs. Grandmother: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
Grandma is an informal term for one's mother's or father's mother; grandmother is the formal term for this relation.

Key Differences

Grandma is a colloquial and affectionate term used to refer to one's mother's or father's mother, embodying a sense of warmth and familiarity. Grandmother is the more formal designation, often used in written language or when speaking respectfully about this family member. While grandma invokes a sense of closeness, grandmother carries a traditional and sometimes distant respect.
The term grandma often indicates a closer, more personal relationship, typically used by grandchildren when addressing or referring to this elder. Grandmother might be used in contexts where formality or clarity is necessary, such as in formal introductions or in genealogical discussions. Grandma is the term of endearment, whereas grandmother denotes formality and lineage.
In various cultures, multiple diminutive and affectionate versions of grandma exist, each reflecting the particular linguistic and cultural nuances of familial relationships. Grandmother, however, often remains unchanged, serving as a universal term across different languages and cultures. Grandma varies with dialects and regions, but grandmother remains a constant, recognized universally.
Grandma is often paired with other terms of affection or nicknames, adapting to the unique dynamics of each family. Grandmother stands as the standard reference in more official documents or when the family relationship needs to be explicitly stated, such as in legal documents. Personalization is key with grandma, while grandmother upholds formality.
When speaking to children, the term grandma is commonly used to help them identify their direct ancestors in a familiar way. In contrast, the term grandmother might be used in educational settings or when explaining family trees, where understanding the lineage and family structure is essential. Grandma simplifies the familial bond, grandmother elaborates the family hierarchy.

Comparison Chart


Informal, casual.
Formal, official.


Used in everyday speech and conversation.
Used in formal writing and documentation.

Emotional Connotation

Conveys warmth and closeness.
Imparts respect and distance.


Subject to regional and familial nicknames.
Less variable, typically remains standard.


Personal, familiar settings.
Official, educational, and genealogical use.

Grandma and Grandmother Definitions


A familiar term for a grandmother.
I'm spending the weekend at grandma's house.


The formal term for the mother of one's parent.
My grandmother emigrated from Ireland in the 1920s.


A casual term used affectionately for an elder woman.
Grandma joined us for the family picnic.


A genealogical term for a female progenitor.
The family tree shows my great-great-grandmother's lineage.


The matriarch of a family, referred to informally.
Grandma has the best stories about our family history.


A respectful title for an elder female ancestor.
My grandmother holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology.


An informal reference to a child's elderly female relative.
Grandma always bakes us cookies when we visit.


An official term used in legal and formal contexts.
The will was left in the name of my grandmother.


A title denoting a familial and generational bond.
Grandma is the one who taught me to knit.


A dignified reference to the senior woman in a family.
Our grandmother is the patriarch of our extended family.


A grandmother.


The mother of one's father or mother.


(informal) grandmother


A female ancestor.


A grandmother.


A mother of someone's parent.


The mother of your father or mother


A female ancestor or progenitor.


The mother of one's father or mother.


The mother of your father or mother


Is "grandma" a proper noun?

It can be when used as a title before a name, e.g., "Grandma Mary."

What are other common synonyms for "grandmother"?

Granny, nana, gran, and grams are popular synonyms.

What is the difference between "grandma" and "grandmother"?

"Grandma" is a more informal and affectionate term, while "grandmother" is more formal.

Should "grandma" be capitalized?

Only when used as a proper noun or at the beginning of a sentence.

Is "grandma" used in all English-speaking countries?

Yes, but regional variations like "nanny" or "nan" might be more common elsewhere.

What is the plural form of "grandma"?

The plural form is "grandmas."

Can "grandma" and "grandmother" be used interchangeably?

Yes, they can, but "grandma" is usually preferred in casual conversation.

How do I refer to my grandmother in the third person?

You can say "my grandmother" or "my grandma," depending on formality.

Can "grandma" be used for anyone other than a biological grandmother?

Yes, it can be used affectionately for an elderly woman who is not a blood relative.

How can I address a step-grandmother?

"Step-grandma" or simply "grandma" if you're close to her.

Are there formal titles for grandmothers in English?

"Grandmother" is formal; honorary titles like "Madam" or "Lady" could precede it in certain cultures.

What is a paternal grandmother?

It's the mother of one's father.

How do I make "grandma" possessive?

Add an apostrophe + s: "grandma's."

Do "grandma" and "grandmother" have the same emotional connotation?

"Grandma" often carries a warmer, more affectionate connotation.

Are there different words for "grandma" in British and American English?

Not significantly, though colloquial terms may vary like "granny" in the UK.

Is "grandmother" ever abbreviated?

Yes, it's often abbreviated to "grandma" or "gran."

What is a maternal grandmother?

It's the mother of one's mother.

How do you use "grandmother" in a sentence?

"My grandmother bakes the best apple pie."

Can "grandma" be a term of endearment for someone's older wife?

It's not common and might be considered disrespectful unless used jokingly between couples.

Is "grandmother" commonly used in legal documents?

Yes, because of its formal tone.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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