‘Abuela’ or ‘Abuelita’: What Spanish-speakers Really Say!

In short – you can refer to your grandmother (both maternal and paternal) as both ‘abuela‘ AND ‘abuelita. The diminutive ‘abuelita’ is a more affectionate term and roughly translates to ‘granny’ in English, while ‘abuela’ translates to ‘grandmother’.

I remember when I first arrived in Mexico, I was a little confused when Erika constantly referred to both her grandmothers as ‘abuelita’ (if only this article had existed back then, huh!).

Read on if you wanna find out exactly when to use the two AND learn another super common alternative 😉

How to address your ‘grandmother‘ in Spanish!

So, it’s really a toss-up between ‘abuela‘, ‘abuelita‘, and ‘abue‘ (which I’ll get to in a bit!)

As mentioned previously, ‘abuelita’ is a more affectionate term (think ‘granny‘ or ‘gran‘ in English!), but you can pretty much use it interchangeably with ‘abuela

Girl saying, "Te amo, abuelita"

I would though recommend that if you’re talking about the grandmother of someone you don’t know very well, it’s probably best to use whichever word the other person is using!

Just as in English, some people have grandmothers that they always refer to as ‘abuela’ and others have grandmothers that they always refer to as ‘abuelita’ or ‘granny’.

Let’s jump into some examples –

¡Tengo la mejor abuela del mundo!

I have the best grandmother in the world!

¿Qué tal tu abuelita?

How’s your granny?

¡Las abuelas siempre consienten a sus nietos!

Grandmothers always spoil their grandchildren!

Mi abuelita vive en Europa.

My granny lives in Europe.

¡No puedo creer la activa que es mi abuela!

I can’t believe how active my grandmother is!

Rupert’s pro tip –abuelita’ is what we call a “diminutive”, which are basically words used to show affection or indicate that something’s small in size!

They’re also a hallmark of Mexican Spanish (think ‘AHORITA’, ‘MOMENTITO’, ‘casita‘, etc.), so throwing a few into your everyday speech is sure to make you sound more native!

And what about ‘abue‘?

Yep, you can actually shorten ‘abuela‘ to ‘abue‘!

It’s another super common way to address your grandmother; the English equivalent would be ‘gran’ or ‘granny’.

Here are some examples –

¡Mi abue is muy moderna!

My gran is really modern!

¿Cómo estás abue? / ¿Cómo está abue?*

How are you gran?

Expert tip – you can use either ‘CÓMO ESTÁS’ OR ‘CÓMO ESTÁ’ (more formal!) when speaking to your gran!

Be sure to check out our article on the differences between the two if you wanna find out more!

Abuela’ / ‘abuelita’ pronunciation

The ‘a’ in ‘abuela’ is said like the ‘a’ in ‘apple’ and the ‘la’ is said like ‘lah’.

/ ah-bweh-lah /

The first two syllables of ‘abuelita’ are pronounced as they are in ‘abuela’, the ‘li’ is said like the English name ‘Lee’ and the ‘ta’ like ‘tah’.

/ ah-bweh-lee-tah /

Useful chunks with ‘abuela

Abuela materna / abuela paterna

Your maternal grandmother in Spanish is your ‘abuela materna’ and your paternal grandmother is your ‘abuela paterna’ (pretty similar to the English, right!).

Mi abuela materna es mexicana pero mi abuela paterna es de China.

Mi maternal grandmother is Mexican, but my paternal grandmother is from China.

Mi abuela paterna vive fuera del país.

My paternal grandmother lives abroad.

Expert tip – abuelo paterno’ and ‘abuelo materno’ mean ‘paternal grandfather’ and ‘maternal grandfather’, respectively.

Just don’t forget that the adjective (‘materno’ or ‘paterno’) has to agree with the noun (‘abuelo’ or ‘abuela’) and you’ll be gold!

La mejor abuela del mundo

If you wanna tell your ‘abuelita‘ that she’s simply the best (and don’t we all!), you can say ‘eres la mejor abuela del mundo‘.

Yep, it makes my heart swell with joy too!

No tiene abuela

I couldn’t resist throwing a bit of Mexican slang into the mix!

No tiene abuela‘ basically means that someone has no shame or that they’re a braggart!

Boy saying, "No tienes abuela, amigo."

As we all know, grandmothers generally spoil their grandchildren and lavish them with praise (whether they deserve it or not!), so this expression is used when someone has a similarly high opinion of themselves as that of their grandmother!

Guillermo – ¡Vamos a ser honestos, soy el mejor futbolista en la escuela!

Daniel – ¡Jaja, no tienes abuela amigo!

Guillermo – Let’s be honest, I’m the best footballer in the school!

Daniel – Haha, you’re pretty modest too!

No ME CAE BIEN, ¡no tiene abuela!

I really don’t like him, he’s such a braggart!

Before you go …

If you wanna learn terms of affection for other family members, make sure to check out our articles on ‘MI AMOR’ and ‘MI CIELO’!

Now go forth and practice my Spanish-speaking friend!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

And some cheeky vids ...

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