10 words for dad around the world

2 min read

Whether he goes by dad, father, pops, or some other moniker, most dads love to regale their family members and guests with little-known dad facts. This Father’s Day, beat dad at his own game by sharing some tidbits of your own: namely, what other proud male parents around the world go by.


Interestingly, this word and its very similar variants are used globally, across different languages, to speak to dad. Linguists suggest it’s likely because, like mama, a repeated “pa” syllable is one of the first and easiest sounds for a baby to make, and parents eagerly ascribe it to themselves.


Apart from papa, baba and its variants (like babbo in Northern Italy or bapa in Sudan) is one of the most popular nicknames for dad around the globe. Much like papa, it’s been applied to dads because kids have an easy time saying it. Chinese, Greek, Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Persian, Swahili, Turkish and Yoruba citizens all say baba when they’re talking about dad.


The Germans and the Dutch both use this term for father in a formal sense; Darth Vader being the most famous bearer of the title. But other languages also adopt a similar sound, such as Afrikaans aader and Icelandic faðir. Germany also shortens vater into the more casual vati.


The Japanese have two words for father, each used in their own distinctive way. Otōsan is a more formal term often applied to someone else’s father, but may also be used when making a serious request of your own dad. Meanwhile, chichi is a conversational way to refer to your father when talking about him with other family members or friends.


Much like Japanese, the Spanish language also accounts for a more formal and informal title for dear old dad. Little ones may also use the affectionate term papito when engaging their father, whether it’s to ask for a hug or an extra scoop of ice cream for dessert.


Technically the formal Russian term for dad is otets, but papa is more commonly used – with a descriptive suffix. For example, popochka is used to describe dad in a loving, close way, while papka is used as slightly derisive slang. Other countries from the former USSR use similar words like otac to label dad.


French children use papa in an affectionate way when speaking to their parents, but the more formal term père is how you’d describe your dad to just about anyone else. Of course, the most famous father of them all goes by the name Père Noel – you might know him as Father Christmas.


Nordic cultures such as Swedish, Norwegian and Danish all use the word far (the Icelandic faðir is similar). Leave it to these Scandi nations to master the art of efficiency by dropping a few excess letters from father.


Pacific languages like Tagalog and Fijian use tata. You’re right to note it has some similar DNA to the ever-popular baba and papa in terms of the repeated “a” sound and easy-to-pronounce consonant. The Ukranian tato is similar, too.


Admittedly, no one really uses Latin as their predominant language anymore, but this word represents the root of all other dad names to come. Note the similarities to father, papa and even parent embedded in this classic name for father.

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