Let’s start with the formalities, “grandmother” and “grandfather.” Most children don’t actually use these in talking with the actual grandparent but they’re useful in narrative and in general discussion. There are three pairs of terms, each building on the words “máthair” (mother) and “athair” (father):
seanmháthair, seanathair: based on the prefix “sean-“ (old)
máthair chríonna, athair críonna: based on the adjective “críonna” (wise, prudent, aged). Please note: despite the endearing bit of misinformation currently circulating on the Internet (sites will remain nameless), these terms do NOT mean “mother of my heart” and “father of my heart.” Those phrases would be based on “croí” (heart), not “críonna” (wise).
máthair mhór, athair mór: based on the adjective “mór” (big, great). I’ve mostly heard this term in Donegal.
For the more familiar terms, there are “Mamó” and “Móraí” for “grandma,” and “Daideo” for “grandpa.”
Using these words is one way that Irish words can be come part of a child’s life, and perhaps stimulate further study of the language later. Needless to say, the terms can now grace mugaí (mugs), t-léinte (t-shirts), or léinte aclaíochta (sweatshirts, lit. “exercise shirts”). Or, for that matter, any other merchandise that allows you to send in customized text for printing.
One curious feature of all of these terms is that none of them are used to create the words “grandchild,” “grandson,” or “grand-daughter.” So how do you do it? Bhuel, ag bogarnach ar an aill sin (Well, hanging on that cliff), slán go dtí an chéad bhlag eile (goodbye until the next blog).
Bhur mblagálaí – Róislín