Monday, February 5, 2018

Word of the Week - Nun

This week's Word is another special request from Lynne F.

 ~ Remember that any time you have one you'd like me to look up, just let me know! ~

worn by the Sisters of Providence
Nun dates back to the very beginnings of English, all the way to the days of Old English, when it was spelled nunne. Its meanings were all within a similar refrain (a woman devoted to a religious life), but I was a bit surprised to realize that it was used both for those in the church and for pagan priestesses.

Interestingly, it derived from the Latin nonna, which is a word given by children to elderly people (and is still the Italian word for "grandmother"). Though the sources I found didn't explain why this was also attached to someone of the religious order, I'm guessing it's because of the respect one would give such a person, similar to what would give one's elders/grandparents.

It's also interesting to note that languages from around the globe have a word similar to nonna for "grandmother" or "aunt" (a nurturing female other than one's mother, basically) - there's nona in Sanskrit, nana in Persian, nanna in Greek, nena in Serbo-Croatian, the aforementioned Italian nonna, and nain in Welsh.

So to ask a question that diverges a bit from the word itself but echoes what it derives from...what do you call your grandmother?


  1. We called them Grandma and their last name. My mother who is 101 years old is called Grandma Mary by my kids and grandkids. They call me Grandma Paula .

    1. My daughter’s kids call their other grandparents Oma and Opa . Lutheran, German!

  2. I never called my Grandmother Nan or nana, at least not often, but its a fairly common term in Britain: especially in the north, I believe.

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  4. Wow, I love learning something new! That nun comes from a term of familiarity makes perfect sense. It's the same with "pope," which to our ears sounds so formal. but the Italians call him "papa," which, obviously, just means "papa." So they call him Dad. :)

    I call(ed) both my grandmas Grandma. Very English in my roots, here.