How to call your grandmother in Polish?

Posted on 13. Mar, 2012 by in Countries, Culture, Grammar, History, Languages, Phrases, Polish Language, Vocabulary

Polish grandmother: babcia, babunia, baba, babka….Which one of these word is correct one to use? Well, each one of them. It just depends on your relation to “her” and the situation.

“Babcia” is the most popular and this form is used the most in Poland. I noticed that a lot people in USA say: “babciu” or “babci”. Both are correct, but “babciu” is used merely as an endearing way to say it to your Grandmother, if you are close to her and speaking to her directly.

Kocham cię babciu! – I love you grandmother

“Babci” on the other hand you use when you for example say:

Jadę do mojej babci - I’m driving to my grandmother

To jest sweter babci – This is babcia’s sweater

“Babunia” is another word for Grandmother.  “Babunia” is only used when speaking to children about their beloved Babcia in an endearing manner, however, that is not her title.  Grandmother’s title is still “Babcia“, it is only used in a sentence like “Your babunia is coming over today for dinner” – Twoja babunia przychodzi na kolację. Babunia is also used a lot in the children stories and books.

“Baba” is usually used by toddlers, who can not pronounce “babcia”. It also means “old lady” or “woman” (not a nice description of a woman though – for example “głupia baba” – stupid woman). It is usually an insult, unless spoken by a little baby.

“Babka” is similar – rude way, usually used if you do not like your grandmother, used sometimes by teenagers in the conversations with their friends. (It is also a name for a specific Polish cake).

I think it is better to just stay away from baba and babka, because if you use them incorrectly, you are being very rude.

Then there are also other words used by people: busha, babusza, busia, buba, bubi, bousha…which are not correct according to Polish grammar.

Some people are going to read this and adamantly argue that the words I stated above which were the correct way to say “Grandmother” are not true because in their Polish American families they use the other words which I explained were not the correct way.  However, there is another history and linguistics lesson in this.

I would encourage anyone to look in an English-Polish Dictionary to see what is written in the English section for “Grandmother”, then try to find the other words in the Polish section.

There is also an explanation to this in Polish history. Poland prior to WWII was not all completely Polish, actually it had a diverse ethnic populace, with Jews, Italians, Greeks, Russians, Germans, Ukrainians, etc. living within it’s borders.  So, just because a family member came from Poland, does not always mean they were ethnically Polish.  I would encourage everyone to look into their family geneology, we all have amazing surprises to discover.  Also, there was a time when some Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, and Russians were labeled as Polish when they came to America and the immigrant just went with that, for whatever reason.

Also, due to the Partitions in Polish history, there was for about 200 years a time when Poles spoke more than one language, usually Russian, Austrian (Austrian German), or Prussian (German).  In some areas and certain periods during that time, Polish was not allowed to be taught or used.  So, some Polish families who came to America, used Russian or German words for certain things or people.

Poles have lived in many places besides Poland for many centuries, just like all other nationalities, or ethnicities.  Poles have lived in France, England, Germany, Ukraine, etc. and would have adopted certain words and other cultural habits from their host country, and therefor would have brought that with them when coming to America.

That is it for the “babcia” subject:) I’m looking forward to your comments about it!

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

About Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew up in Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business at the University of Warsaw. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with her Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they was born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.

3 Responses to “How to call your grandmother in Polish?”

  1. M 15 March 2012 at 10:03 am #

    Please could you tell me where to get that baby vest? I want one!
    Thank you!
    Mary

  2. Barbara 30 October 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Hi, can you please tell me how to pronounce Babcia in English?

  3. Charlotte 7 February 2013 at 3:34 am #

    My siblings and I have always called our Babcia both Baba and Bubbi lol had no idea it could be interpereted as offensive! @Barbara, if you havent figured it out yet, Babcia is pronounced like “bub-cha” or “bup-cha” with a hard ‘ch’ as in ‘chafe”


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