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Mummi ja Ukki

I grew up calling my (maternal) grandparents Mummi and Ukki. In the course we learn mummo and vaari. What is the difference? just synonyms or a dialect thing. (ought to be a Lemi or Lappeenranta dialect in that case)

July 18, 2020



I went with mummo and vaari, because they are the most common ones. In fact, I use ukki instead of vaari myself. If you see a common variant missing in a translation, report it by using the flag. It'll probably take some time for it to get added though, since we are a bit flooded right now. :)


I would love to see some statistics between mummo, mummi, mumma, famu and ämmi. Which is the most common and by how big a margin. In fact I'd love to be doing those kind of statistics.


"Ukki" is kind of a diminutive of "ukko", which means an old man in Finnish. All old men could be called ukko, but only your own beloved grandpa could be your ukki. Ukki is used as the default word for grandpa in a geographically large area, especially in Eastern Finland, but there are more people living in the regions where they prefer the Swedish-derived alternatives such as "vaari" and "pappa". The original words in Swedish are far (father), pappa (dad), farfar (father's father) and morfar (mother's father). Vaari clearly means grandpa in Finnish, but pappa is more ambiguous, as especially the Swedish speaking minority might use it for father.

Almost all the variations for grandma have been derived from Swedish mamma (mum), mormor (mother's mother) or farmor (father's mother). "Mummo" is quite often used to refer to old women in general, although it probably should not be. In Eastern Finland, "mummi" is the most common variant; it can be used only in relation to being somebody's grandparent (i.e. it is less generic than mummo). In Western dialects there is more competition. Often the grandparents themselves (at least try to) tell which variant they would like people to use based on whichever sounds most familiar and best.

The formal words would be isoäiti (literally grandmother) and isoisä (grandfather). These sound too formal to most native speakers when talking or writing about their own family members. Mummo and ukki/vaari are formal enough if you are not writing a legal document. If you are, you might need also precise words such as äidinäiti (mother's mother), äidinisä (mother's father) etc. These are handy in informal communication as well, if you try to explain who exactly was doing what.


Mummu/mummo/mummi are similar to Swedish mamma, French mama, English mom/mum etc., but ultimately the etymology for all of those is essentially just baby talk, i.e. those are some of the first sounds babies can make.


Would you then use mummi and ukki for both or just the maternal grand parents?

  • 1964

There is no single rule to that and I'd say it completely depends on dialect/area related things and each family's own traditions. I had mummo and ukki on the paternal side, and mummo and pappa on the maternal side, so it seems to vary wildly even within this thread.

As a funny side note, from my experience, regardless of how grandparents are usually called, visiting them is usually expressed as going to mummola or mummila. I have never ever heard anyone call it vaarila, ukkila, or pappala and that would sound quite ridiculous to me. Others correct me if I'm wrong.


As a funny side note, from my experience, regardless of how grandparents are usually called, visiting them is usually expressed as going to mummola or mummila. I have never ever heard anyone call it vaarila, ukkila, or pappala and that would sound quite ridiculous to me. Others correct me if I'm wrong.

I used to go to tuffala! :' )


Only the Swedish words/loans of mortar/mofa and farfar/fafa are specific to maternal and paternal grandfathers respectively.

Anything else is just variation by dialect, family, and what the person in question wants to be called by their grandchildren or what the kids' parents want to use.


Sooner or later you are mastering the language so well that you can ask those questions in vauva.fi


Vauva.fi is a legend. It's a discussion forum unlike any other discussion forum. What you need to know about life, the universe and everything was discussed in vauva.fi last year.

There even is a very popular band, Kalevauva.fi. All their songs are from the discussions, no wonder they are so popular.



OMG, I'd never come across Kalevauva before -- they are hilarious! Thanks!! To think that all those lyrics come from vauva.fi (which I am of course familiar with)...

I would encourage learners to take a look at vauva.fi, but please try not to be influenced by the grammar or spelling on there! As in any language, chats and (general) discussion boards are the worst for these things...


Dialect/preference. I grew up calling my grandparents tuffa, mamma, pappa, and mummo. :)


Adding to the list mummu, mumma, even momma and paappa in Western Finland. The very official names would be isoäiti and isoisä.


Great question and nice answers, I was wondering too.. I always called my grandma 'mummi', but had no Finnish grandpa left so I never learnt to say 'vaari'. I have been wondering about dialect too, as my mummi taught me to make a 'vasta' out of birch twigs for in the sauna, but all Finns I spoke to on holidays refer to it as 'vihta'.

  • 1964

It's not strictly the topic of this thread, but the vasta/vihta debate is, from my experience, one of the most prominent and defining characteristics of dialects' influence to everyday Finnish language. That's because there isn't really anything debatable because both words are equally right and mean the exactly same thing, but still many times people tend to playfully defend the word they have learned and try to convince the other side they are wrong :)

Roughly, vasta is used in Eastern and vihta in Western parts of Finland.


I'm from the East and I've been mixing the other dialects to mine so much over the past years that I can't even remember if I'm supposed to call it as vihta or vasta anymore :D But I guess we say 'vasta' here - the -ht- in vihta probably just confuses me because we tend to change -ts- in the middle of word into -ht-, like metsä -> mehtä. And I think we do that with -st- occassionally too, because in Savo 'vitsa' actually becomes 'vihta'. But I have never actually thought that the word also means _vihta too :D


Dankjewel 'Ik_', for your insights! Indeed my mummi was born in eastern Karelia, for the moment a part of Russia.. But when I used to visit her she lived on the northern ostrobothnian side, so I guess she has had to adjust her Finnish tongue a bit in her life. I wish I could ask her about the differences she noticed, but alas, too late now.

  • 1964

You're welcome! Dunno if my ramblings are interesting but just in case 8) I think you just mentioned another very interesting thing about the adaptation to a language. I can very much relate to MCRmadness' comment because I come from an area that doesn't perceivably have much of a dialect. I think my way of speaking is a totally a mixed bag as it's gotten influence from many (even most) Finnish dialects over the years. But never have I had to adjust nor adapt my language knowingly; whenever I've spent time any longer with people speaking in a certain way, before long I notice I've picked up some traits of their speech. Some of the acquired traits gradually die off when the environment changes, but a few stay. Some people are more susceptible to the influence than others, but I guess this kind of subconscious adaptation might've been the case with your mummi too.


I'm from Eastern Finland, I always called my both grandmas as "mummi", and my maternal granpa as "ukki". I always found other grandparent nicknames really weird, especially because I sometimes used "pappa" and "vaari" to refer elderly men overall. But not too often, usually I just said "vanha mies" (an old man).

I don't know how I would have called my paternal granpa, though. I never met him because he died when my dad was 10 years old and because of that I usually use his name when talking about him or if I talk about him to someone who doesn't know about my family tree, I say "my dad's dad".

I think for me these words come from my parents because my mom also uses "mummi" and "ukki" when she speaks about her late grandparents. Actually my greatgrandma died when I was 8-years-old and we all called her as "mummi" too (and still talk about her as that), often just adding the name in front of the word, sometimes using the name only, and we did this with the grandmas too very often. I have never heard other words going around in my family, and my dad probably never even met his grandparents (or was still a baby) - at least I don't remember him ever mentioning them. I think I actually have to ask him if he ever saw them. And when I think about my cousins and how they call their other grandparents, I think most of them also say "mummi" and "ukki".

But I have heard the other words every now and then being used by other families and like I said, I have always found the other names bit weird sounding, I don't really associate them with grandparents but I know they still exist and what they mean.


These differences seem to be largely to do with dialect and regions. My family came from northeastern Finland, and we used mummi / mummo and ukki. I've only come across vaari used in the south and southwest, though it might appear in other parts.

Given that the boundaries between dialects are soft (a gradual change rather than a sharp boundary) it might be hard to make definite conclusions about where the variants are used.

I also wonder if the dialects have been getting blurred in recent decades by the increased cross-pollination of words between dialects thanks to TV shows and later the internet. I hope scholars are preserving information on the dialects for future historians and linguists.


Thank you guys for this very interesting discussion!

I attended several Finnish courses in Finland and we were only taught ´isoäiti´ and ´isoisä´.

I summarize here all the variants that were mentioned in the discussion:

isoäiti: mummi, mummo, mummu, mumma, mamma, momma, famu, ämmi, mufa

isoisä: vaari, ukki, pappa, paappa, tuffa, äidinisä, isänisä, fafa


äidinisä, isänisä

These aren't nicknames for "isoisä", they literally mean "mother's father" and "father's father". (I only mentioned them because someone brought up the Swedish words morfar and farfar.)

Some additions to your lists (that haven't been mentioned in the discussion):

isoäiti: famo, fammo, fammu, tummu, nanna, muori, mummeli

isoisä: papa, paapa, tuffi, tuhva, taata, taatta, taatto, tuora, tuhari, ukko, äijä, äijävaari


Mufa is specifically for your maternal grandfather, so you have it in the wrong list.


Isoäiti and isoisä are the official ones. I think that most commonly people use mummo and pappa. But there are quite wide range of nicknames to grandparents in finland, and it is not uncommon to make new ones in the family as well.


im not sure but i have a problem similar to yours but for spanish :(


I'm Finnish, and I always thought that the difference officially between ukki and vaari was that ukki means maternal grandfather and vaari means paternal grandfather. But.... now when I googled, I didn't find a confirmation for that at least right away. So I'm not sure if that is also regional or something after all.

Anyhow, my grandfathers died before I was born, so I never called them anything that way, but I would refer to them as my isoisä (the more official word, grandfather) or my ukki for mum's dad and vaari for dad's dad, like I noted above. My mum's mum was mummi for me and my dad's mum was Swedish speaking, so she was called by a Swedish name (so I'll not confuse you all with that).

More generally the official words for grandmother and grandfather, like at least Doris said before, would be isoäiti and isoisä. Then what people call their own grannies and grandads (or whatever terms you use in English either) is a different matter as there's a lot of different terms, some of which might be more common in one region than in another. I would use ukki and vaari more generically referring to someone else's grandad. I would use mummi or mummo of someone else's grandma and would use one of those as well if saying something like "both my grannies". And with someone else's, I mean something like "I think he's here with his granny" "Hän on kai täällä mummonsa kanssa."

And this is a slightly different thing, but I would also use mummo for generic old lady. "Siellä oli vain (vanhoja) mummoja." "There were just old ladies there." (...so it was not my kind of event, or something).

When I grew up, I would mostly hear friends also call their grandparents mostly mummi (maybe sometimes mummu), vaari and ukki (sometimes pappa, which with Swedish speaking family I find a bit strange, because that's dad to me). But I've also heard, (especially later when getting more friends from all over the country) the other words that people have mentioned.


I always thought that the difference officially between ukki and vaari was that ukki means maternal grandfather and vaari means paternal grandfather.

I think it would be weird if some of your grandkids called you "ukki" and the rest called you "vaari" (since you can be both a paternal and a maternal grandparent to someone). I've always thought that people usually just pick one of the words to be called by all their grandkids.


We do that in Swedish though (morfar and farfar).


Well, I'm talking about the nicknames that we have for our grandparents in Finnish... (I don't think morfar and farfar are nicknames?) Though you can also say "isänisä" or "äidinisä" in Finnish and you obviously can't just randomly pick which one you are (and you can be both of them).


I wouldn't call my grandparents by their names (or talk about them with their names) if that is what you mean with nickname? I would only use farmor/farfar.


That's not what I meant.

  • English: grandmother
  • common nicknames: nana, gran...

  • Finnish: isoäiti
  • common nicknames: mummi, mamma, mumma...

  • Swedish: farmor/mormor
  • common nicknames: none that I know of


Men vi har ju "mufa" i "fafa" i finska också.

I grew up with ukki and mummi and taata and mummu. Had nothing to do with being father's or mother's parents but of the fact my father was North Carelian and mother from Southern Lapland.


@Janne_G_Pirinen I guess fafa and mufa (and fammu, etc?) could be considered to be the nicknames for the (/Finnish) Swedish words for grandparents... Or they're just the exceptions in Finnish that I didn't think of, thanks for pointing them out.


Yeah, the names vary from place to place and family to family. "Isoäiti" and "isoisä" are the official ones, and of the informal ones I too would suspect that "mummo" and "vaari" are the most common (and also agree that "mummo" can be used also generally to refer to old ladies in slightly disparaging, or affectionate, way, bit like "granny" in English).

My grandparents, the ones that were alive for me to have a name for them, were "mamma" and "pappa" (which indeed can be confusing for Swedish-speakers...and oddly enough my grandfather was Swedish-speaking so maybe we just picked how my father called them...)

In some parts of Finland even "ämmä" and "äijä" are commonly used, while in large parts those would definitely not be good ideas to call anyone (having meanings more like "hag" and "geezer")

  • 1551

My grandmother was from near Vaasa and I always used "mumma."


Isoäiti and isoisä are the formal terms, equivalent to grandmother and grandfather.

Vaari is IMO by far the most common informal term for grandfathers, and I would say it's also the generic informal word for grandfathers. I presume ukki is the next most common, and I think it gets used across most/all dialects. Some dialects use e.g. äijä.

Mummo/mummu/mummi aren't even dialectal variation, just personal preference and/or family traditions.

And Swedish speakers (and a few Finnish speakers, if there's some Swedish-speaking roots in the extended family) use fafa, mofa (might also be spelled "mufa" if the text is otherwise in Finnish), and famo, which are colloquial Swedish terms for specifically paternal grandfathers, maternal grandfathers, and paternal grandmothers, respectively. Short for the equivalent for "father's father" etc. I think maternal grandmothers default to mummu, at least in Finland, but my sample size here is small. Because it already works as a contraction of "mormor", so I don't think I've heard people use "momo" (with a short/single m sound). And in any case, if e.g. said maternal grandmother is Finnish-speaking themselves, then they might be mummi or mummo anyway.


First of all: How do you relate to my humble home town (village?), the Metal Capital of the World: Lemi?

To answer your question: Father's parents were called fammu (from swedish farmor/farsmor = father's mother) and pappa. For pappa faffa (farfar or farsfar for father's father) would have been correct but sounded too wierd so we went with pappa. Fammu was always just fammu (as she preferred i think) but for pappa we used his first name + pappa.

We didn't have much to do with mother's parent's but IIRC we used mummu and vaari/pappa (both were used) in combination with their first names (name + mummu and name + vaari/pappa).

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