Origin of the words Mamaw and Papaw
Mr Rick
I recently moved to the Southeastern part of the U.S. Granmother here is referred to as Mamaw and Grandfather as Papaw. Since the area is heavily Scots-Irish, I am wondering if these two terms are Gaelic in origin. I have also considered it to be American Indian. Since these words are so commonly used, I would think the origin would be easy to trace, yet I can't find anything on the internet or language dictionaries.
Thank you
This won't answer your question directly, but you might like to look at http://www.namenerds.com/uucn/granny.html where a whole nunch of names for Granny and Grandad are mentioned, including my favorite... Lola/Lolo... which are, apparently, Grandma/Grandpa in Tagalog (Philippines)
Frank Pierce
Nor does this answer your question, but I wonder where the accent is placed on these words, first or last syllables?

Ma-MAH would have a sountern hint to it. New Orleans if I recall. Likewise the French influenced Ma-MERE and Pa-PERE, commonly used there for grandma and grandpa.

Lewis Joplin II
MAM-maw and PAP-paw.
Lewis Joplin II
I think mamaw and papaw are just riffs on mam and pap. I couldn't find anything specifically for those terms.

"Mom and Dad. From the 1770s to the 1930s, 'mama' and 'papa/poppa' were what most Americans called their parents. Both words are extremely widespread, with cognates in many languages, and probably derive from the cries babies have made since before the dawn of history. 'MAma' and 'PApa' were the common American pronunciations, though the British pronunciations of 'maMa' and 'paPa' were also heard on this side of the Atlantic. 'Mama' also gave us 'mum' and 'mummy' in the 1820s, though these words were considered socially low until around 1900, when Americans heard them used by upper-class Englishmen. The form 'mammy' appeared in the 1840s. 'Papa/poppa' gave us 'pappy' in the 1770s, 'pap' in the first decade of the 1800s (primarily in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley), and 'pop' in the 1830s, with 'pop' also soon becoming a slang term for any elderly man (1844).

'Ma' and 'pa' rivaled 'mama' and 'papa' in popularity from the 1780s to the 1860s...Today, however, 'mama' and 'papa' and 'ma' and 'pa' are seldom heard in urban America outside the South. Since the 1930s most Americans have called their parents 'mom' and 'dad.'...How about the basic words 'mother' and 'father' themselves? They have always been used in America, but until 1900 were primarily adult words, few children before then being so formal or educated as to use them. 'Grandmother' and 'grandfather' were also considered adult words until the 1900s - since colonial days most American children have called their grandparents 'grandma' and 'grandpa,' with 'gramps' appearing in the 1860s..." From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).

I have wondered about the actual/certain origin, also. I have been told that Mamaw and Papaw are American Indian terms referring to grandmother and grandfather. Grandparents in my family have a long history (at least six generations)of being referred to in this manner. I am currently searching for more information on this subject. If the word is of native American origin, it is most likely that it would have been a Cherokee term, possibly, but less like Sioux or Apache.
Mr Rick
Thank you all for the great information. I was wondering if there was an American Indian connection. It amazes me how little information there is on these two words. Thanks everyone. I hope we can find the root. We might be one of the few who will know!
Frank Pierce
Lewis, in your first posting, you cite two words that confuse me.

[q]MAM-maw and PAP-paw.[/b]

Is that pronounced MAM with the "A" like the A in the word "Man" or in "M'aam"? I assumed that it was a broad A, sounded "ah". If so, then I'd certainly not speculate that it was a n Aglicising of the New Orleans Ma-MERE.

Lewis Joplin II
M'aam-maw. As in mammy. Mammy...Mam-maw.
Mr Rick
Well, it is not [unfortunately] a Cherokee word for grandmother and grandfather as I have listed below:
Grandfather = Ududu
Grandmother = Ulisi
Not even close enough to have been a combination or mispronounciation.
...and here are a few more to remind people like me, who tend to be anglocentric, of the extraordinary diversity of human language!

Aleut:- Latux: Grandfather; Kukax: Grandmother
Apache:- In the Apache tongue the word for grandfather is the same as the word for grandson
Mandarin:- "ye-ye": paternal grandfather; "nai-nai": paternal grandmother; "lao-ye": maternal grandfather; and "lao-lao": maternal grandmother.
Siberian Yupik:- Apaa: Grandfather: Nengyuq: Grandmother
Tlingit:- L'eelk'w: Grandparent
Tsimpsean:- Gtzish: Grandmother
Yupik:- Apa'urluq: Grandfather

Frank Pierce
Ah, Lewis, pronounced like the first two syllables of mammogram. NOW I got it !

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