Sunday is called Father’s Day, but many of us refer to our male parents as Dad or Papa rather than by the more formal “father.” Why does English have so many names for the same person? And where do they all come from?

Like the names for our female parents, “papa” and its many variations were primarily imitative of the first sounds that young children make – the p, b and ah sound. Throughout the Middle East and South Asia, fathers are called “baba,” which sounds a lot like papa. In fact papa, baba, and father are related to the Sanskrit word pitr.

“Dad” was recorded in the 1500s but probably was used by children for a long period before that. The formal “father” was spelled “fader” until as recently as the late 1500s. “Pops” is the most recent linguistic twist on affectionate names for our dads. It arose in America in the 1830s.

Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington in 1910. It did not become an official holiday in the United States until 1972. It is always celebrated on the third Sunday in June.

What do you call your dad?


  1. Alizai -  March 23, 2014 - 1:52 pm

    I call my father “Khan Baba”

  2. Cassandra -  January 24, 2014 - 10:16 am

    Poppa mostly or Pop

  3. Redbeard -  January 15, 2014 - 12:43 pm

    Old thread, but why not. @Dr S Gupta I call mine by a variant of his first name Scott, Scottie. Scott also happens to be my last name. It’s only because he’s my now step-father(the only father I’ve ever known and care to know). I called him that the five years before he and my mum/mom married(when I was 13). So it became hard to change. I do call him da or dad when telling a friend who he is, or on social media. It’s not that we “western children lack culture,” it’s just that some of us knew our father as a friend, before he became a dad. And then there’s the western children that actually do lack culture, but I think that can be said of children in any country. Believe me, I have nothing but respect for my dad. -22 y/o son from the US.

  4. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 31, 2013 - 5:28 am

    I call my dad “Dad.” He is awesome!! I love my dad. <3

    Mennonites call their dads "Father." No idea why…maybe a respect thing?

  5. eden carter -  October 18, 2013 - 10:34 am

    I love my daddy

  6. eden carter -  October 18, 2013 - 10:33 am

    I call my dad…………………super daddy he calls me sweet pea I am 8 years old

  7. Vampyr -  August 23, 2013 - 4:09 pm

    ‘Tis Fathers’ Day, the of, or for fathers, not Father’s Day, a day of, or for Father, or a particular father. £ikewise, Mothers’ Day is not Mother’s Day if so, who is THE mother?
    I called to my old man “Daddy,” however, I refer to him as dad, with a small “d;” I sometimes refer to him as “my da,” or “ma faither.”
    I used to call my mother “Mummy;” I sometimes refer to her as “my mum,” my mother, or “ma mother,” however, I call her Mother, Mum, Ma, or Mame (that’s Ma-me, not Mame, the musical, or the act of injuring somebody.); it’s usually “Mother.”

  8. nichols-elliott -  August 15, 2013 - 12:11 pm

    Daddy, always Daddy passed away on the morning of August 2, 2013. I was and always will be “Daddy’s Girl”

    “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
    From an Irish headstone”

  9. Someone -  August 3, 2013 - 12:31 pm

    Baba or Abbu

  10. larry jones -  August 2, 2013 - 4:39 pm

    Me too, I call my father the old man. He answers to it, called him that since my junior year of high school.

  11. joe mcberry -  August 2, 2013 - 4:37 pm

    i call my father the old man.

  12. TT C. -  July 30, 2013 - 10:00 am

    I call him Dad, mostly, but sometimes “Papa” or “Tim-Tam.”

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