‘Abuela’ vs ‘Abuelita’

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

You’ll hear both words throughout the Spanish speaking world, so it’s definitely useful to know exactly what they mean!

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!).

Just as a side note (for the more curious minds!), the word ‘abuela’ is thought to have evolved from the vulgar Latin* term aviŏla. ‘Abuelita’ is the diminutive form of ‘abuela’ which we’ll look at in further detail in a bit.

*Erika’s note – vulgar Latin was a colloquial form of Latin spoken from the Late Roman Republic onwards (I know what you were thinking …)!

Abuela’ vs ‘abuelita’ (with examples)

As mentioned previously, ‘abuelita’ is a more affectionate term for an ‘abuela’, think ‘granny‘ or ‘gran‘ in English.

You can pretty much use both words interchangeably, but if you’re talking about the grandmother of someone you don’t know very well, it’s probably best to use ‘abuela’ at first (although it wouldn’t be incorrect to use ‘abuelita’ either!)

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!

Abuelita’ as a diminutive

Abuelita’ is actually what we call a “diminutive” in Spanish.

Let’s quickly delve into what diminutives are as they’re no way near as common in English!

In Spanish so-called diminutive suffixes are often affixed to the end of words (normally nouns, but also sometimes adjectives and adverbs) to show affection or to soften the meaning of a particular phrase.

In the case of ‘abuelita’, the diminutive is used to express affection towards your gran.

Let’s look at some examples –

¡Me fascina tu casita! (referring to something little)

I love your little house!

¡Dame un momentito, por favor! (softening the impact)

Give me a sec, please!

Mi abuelita horneó un pastel delicioso. (term of affection)

My granny baked a delicious cake.

Abuela materna’ vs ‘abuela paterna

Your maternal grandmother in Spanish is your ‘abuela materna’ and your paternal grandmother is your ‘abuela paterna’ (very 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.

Erika’s top 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!

Abuela’ / ‘abuelita’ pronunciation

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

/ a-bweh-lah /

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

/ a-bweh-lee-tah /

No tiene abuela’ meaning

This phrase basically means that someone has no shame or that they’re a braggart!

As we all know, grandmothers generally spoil their grandchildren and lavish them with praise (whether they be deserving of it or not!). This expression is therefore used when someone has a similarly high opinion of themselves as their own 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 nada bien, ¡no tiene abuela!

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

Fancy learning more colloquial Mexican Spanish?

Be sure to check out our articles on ya, wey and te la rifas if you wanna learn more super useful informal phrases!

Abue’ meaning

Abue’ is another super common word for a grandmother, the English equivalent would be ‘gran’ or ‘granny’. As with ‘abuelita’, ‘abue’ is also a term of affection.

Here are some examples –

¡Mi abue is muy moderna!

My gran is really modern!

¿Cómo estás abue? / ¿Cómo está abue?*

How are you gran?

*Erika’s note – you can use either ‘cómo estás‘ or the more formal ‘cómo está‘ when speaking to your gran, be sure to check out our article on the differences between cómo estás‘ and ‘cómo está if you want to find out more!

Final thoughts

With any luck you’ll now be easily able to differentiate between ‘abuela’, ‘abuelita’ and ‘abue’. Just remember that they roughly translate to ‘grandmother’, ‘granny’ and ‘gran’ respectively, and you’ll be good to go!

Now go forth and practice my Spanish-speaking friend!

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