Grandma, Pe-po, Gee-ma, or Gramps? What’s in a Name?

Depending on whether you want a traditional, trendy, or playful grandparent name, you’ll find an ample list to choose from, like this one. Sometimes, you may not have a choice in the matter. When we became grandparents, my husband and I discovered there’s more to a name–than just the name:

What’s in a Name?

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:13-14

Choosing the Name

When my husband and I learned we would soon be grandparents, we casually discussed with our children what the grandkids might call us. I ruled out some common names like “Grandma,” “Grandmama,” “Granny,” and “Grandmommy,” since they reminded me of my own or my husband’s grandparents and great-grandparents.

My girls agreed. So I suggested “Mimi,” and my husband selected “Papa.” They just sounded good together.

No-no Names

Somewhere in the discussion my husband announced some no-no names: Forget about “Pe-po,” “Po-Po,” or “Paw-Paw.” Or “Me-ma,” I added for myself. By this time, we were on a roll. Then Larry remembered one more name from an old Jimmy Stewart rerun where Jimmy’s grandkids called him “Boom-paw.”

“Whatever you do, don’t call me Boom-paw.”

Big mistake.


As the birth date grew closer, one of our sons-in-laws decided to have some fun. Every e-mail and card began with “Dear Boom-paw.” Mercifully, however, the name began to fade, and my son-in-law used it only occasionally. The four grandkids have stuck to “Mimi.” But Papa didn’t win out completely. Our “boom-paw” son-in-law’s second child, Lauren, pronounced her own version of Papa’s name. He promptly became “Pop-pops” to her.

Your Choice or Theirs?

I’ve talked to other grandmoms about the origin of their names. Many, like me, chose them. Some children stated their preference without giving the grandparents a choice. But a large number of women live with the nicknames their grandchildren called them early on. I imagine that’s where all those, um, “unique” names originated. Eager to pronounce the name for the one they loved, little tongues started calling them an affectionate title long before they understood the meaning. Their motive was, no doubt, love. And in reality, we as grandmoms don’t mind at all.

I thought about that recently. What’s in a name? Why had I chosen “Mimi”? Larry really couldn’t have cared less what the kids called him, even if it was “Boom-paw.” But I wondered about my real motive in choosing my name. “Mimi” sounded younger, more modern, and somehow not as “old” sounding as some old-fashioned names. Perhaps it was my way of rebelling at the realization I was growing older.

Making It Personal

But whatever the initial motive, that name has become strangely personal. When my grandchildren approach me, they are still young enough to run to me in childlike innocence and adoration: “Miiiiiimiiiiiii!” as they throw eager arms around my neck. At the pronouncement of my special name, my heart melts. There are other women named “Mimi.” But my grandchildren’s name for me is different, because they know me personally. At that moment, I think I would do anything for my grandchildren.

The Meaning Behind a Name

What’s in a name, really? Apparently a lot, according to God’s Word. Throughout Scripture, God’s name was to be spoken reverently, with a holy hush. When God sent his Son, Jesus, that name would open up the way to a personal relationship with God. We could then “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).

Knowing about Jesus and really knowing him personally are two different things. When Jesus said, “Ask in my name,” he didn’t mean you could wrap your finger around God’s heart hoping to receive any selfish desire. He was referring to the power of that personal name.

When we run to Jesus with open arms of adoration and faith, when we cry out his name because we know him personally, God will do anything on our behalf that will ultimately bring glory to him. The name of Jesus literally moves heaven to earth.

It’s all in the Name.


How do you approach God? Do you know Jesus personally? Write down what his name really means to you.


At the name of Jesus, all of heaven stops to listen.


Jesus, your name means so much to me. How many times have I cried to you, and you have answered me?  May I never take your name for granted, Lord Jesus. I really want to know you even more.

(c) 2010, Rebecca Barlow Jordan, Day-votions™ for Grandmothers, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, Used by Permission, All Rights Reserved. (Subheadings in story added here for emphasis, not in original manuscript).

What about you?

Please use the comment section below and tell me the origin of your grandparent name. Who named you? Why that choice? How has that name become personal to you? How has the name of Jesus (and knowing Him personally) affected you? What are your thoughts?

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    10 Responses to “Grandma, Pe-po, Gee-ma, or Gramps? What’s in a Name?”

    1. Rhodema Cargill on July 21st, 2010 12:03 pm

      What a timely post! We are expecting our first and I don’t know what to be called or how to decide.




      Both of my Grandmothers names are Mary Bigham and Peral Northover they married to Francis Ralyor Bigham and Dennis Notrthover who have now passed away from cancer God rest Their Souls. . Marry’s Mother’s name was Ann McCafrey and Peral’s Mother’s name was Elizbeth Rebel.
      God Bless YOU

    3. Iris Wilson on July 21st, 2010 3:26 pm

      Rebecca, I think the most unique name for a grandfather was what my brother’s grands called him, Eye-daddy! Interstingly, the way it got started the son with the oldest grandchild would drop in to see my brother and sister-in-law and would say Hi, Daddy! Well, Chase thought he was saying “Eye-daddy” so that is what stuck. Just to make it more special my brother was an Optometrist :)

      I chose Grandmother for me because another sister-in-law had grands before we did and the little ones (before they could say Grandmother) called her Granmudder. I thought that was adorable. A few years ago one of my older granddaughters started calling me GMother for short. That has stuck with some of the kids now. It makes me feel a little bit like a “private-eye” which is certainly needed with 4 of them being teenagers now.

    4. Judy Keesee (Jurgensen) on July 22nd, 2010 3:42 pm

      Hi Becky,
      What a lovely story on Grandmother and Grandaddys and their special names. I think we must be way behind in the grandparent depart! We have only one granddaughter and being the teenager that she is calls us Mom and Dad. When she was young, she heard daughter, Kari, calling us Mom and Dad on the phone a lot as they lived out of town then. We have a couple of “grandkids of the heart” who call us GMom and Pops, tho’. As you said, no matter what they call us we melt, too.

      Love, Judy

    5. Rebecca on July 22nd, 2010 9:42 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Judy! Those grandkids do make us melt, don’t they?

    6. Rebecca on July 22nd, 2010 9:44 pm

      Iris, thank you for sharing your fun stories! I love those names!

    7. Rebecca on July 22nd, 2010 9:44 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Jason!

    8. Rebecca on July 22nd, 2010 9:47 pm

      Congratulations, Rhodema! Let us know what name you end up with! Of course, like many, it may change through the years! :)

    9. Linda on August 25th, 2010 7:13 am

      Before our first grandchild was born, I decided that our grandchildren would call me Grammie. I really don’t know why, I just thought it was kind of catchy. Well, as I helped our first grandson learn to talk, I would say “Grammie” and he would laugh and jump up and down and say “Ammie”! Of course, five grandsons later, I am still Ammie. Once again I am reminded how many things I can’t control and that I don’t always know best. My husband is and has always been Granddad. Now, why didn’t they call him “Amdad”? Hummm…..

    10. Rebecca on August 25th, 2010 7:42 pm

      Cute story, Linda! Thanks for sharing it!

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