Polish Language Blog

How to call your grandmother in Polish? Posted by on Mar 13, 2012 in Culture, Grammar, Phrases, 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…)

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. 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 their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were 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.


  1. M:

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

  2. Barbara:

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

    • Lawrence:

      @Barbara Babcia
      Pronounce= BOP-SHA
      Bob sha

  3. Charlotte:

    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”

  4. Tom:

    I called my Polish grandmother Madelaine. She was a cheek pincher and force fed me. I think she used the word ‘babushka”. She wouldn’t let us sit on the expensive chairs.

    • Kasia:

      @Tom Of course, no problem.

  5. Pattie Bradac:

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after looking at some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

  6. Hades Tatsu:

    Thank you for the post, though it is jaw dropping for me. My Grandfather on my mothers side was Polish, so it is a delight to see some words from his mother tongue.

    However my grandmother on my step fathers side, I was told was Russian and that the word Babka meant a term of endearment meaning “loving grandmother” or something of the like. I suddenly feel bad for calling her that all these years later after she passed away.

  7. J:

    What language is booshie for grandma? I know we are German Russian and Irish but that’s what we always called our grandma and she was from Germany. She moved to America in 1904. I’m sure my booshie spelling is not correct…..

  8. Mark:

    My ex-wife is half Irish and half Polish. She referred to her grandmother as “grandma” and to her own mother as grandma to our own children. Now out of the blue, to our grandchildren, she refers to herself as Babcia and prefers that they call her Babcia. Of course, most people had no idea where that came from or how to pronounce it. So here in the Midwest, most people ask, “What the hell????”