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A grandfather and his granddaughter

Etymology 1[edit]

The noun is derived from Middle English grandfadre, graundfadir, graunfadir, grauntfader, and other forms, from graunt (big, large; great, important)[1] + fā̆der (male parent, father; remoter male ancestor),[2] probably modelled after Middle French grandpere, grant pere (male parent; remoter male ancestor) (whence French grand-père);[3] the English word is analysable as grand- +‎ father. Superseded earlier eldfather, elderfather.[3]

The verb is derived from the noun.[4]


grandfather (plural grandfathers)

  1. A father of someone's parent. [from 15th c.]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:grandfather
    Antonyms: (with regard to gender) grandmother, (with regard to ancestry) grandson; see also Thesaurus:grandmother
    • 1662, [Edmund] Plowden, “Entry”, in H. B., transl., Plovvdens Quæries: Or, A Moot-book of Choice Cases, Useful for the Young Students of the Common Law: Englished, Methodized, and Enlarged, London: Printed for Ch. Adams, J. Starkey, and Tho[mas] Basset, [], →OCLC, page 117:
      Grandfather, Father, and Son. The Father diſſeiſeth the Grandfather and dies, the Son endows the Mother, the Grandfather dies, the Son may enter upon the Mother; for he hath a new Right deſcended to him from the Grandfather, for the Grandfather might have entred upon the Mother, ſo ſhall his Heir.
    • 1766, William Blackstone, “Of Title by Descent”, in Commentaries on the Laws of England, book II (Of the Rights of Things), Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Clarendon Press, →OCLC, page 203:
      Lineal conſanguinity is that which ſubſists between perſons, of whom one is deſcended in a direct line from the other: as between John Stiles (the propoſitus in the table of conſanguinity) and his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and ſo upwards in the direct aſcending line; or between John Stiles and his ſon, grandſon, great-grandſon, and ſo downwards in the direct deſcending line.
    • 1790 October, “An Historical Developement of the Political Constitution of the Germanic Empire. By J[ohann] S[tephan] Pütter, Privy Counsellor of Justice, &c. Translated from the German, by Josiah Dornford, of Lincoln’s Inn, L.L.D. Vol. II.”, in The Literary Magazine and British Review, volume V, London: Printed for the proprietors and sold by C[hristopher] Forster [], →OCLC, page 290, column 2:
      One circumſtance [] peculiar to the Germanic empire, is the diſtinction between its mediate and immediate members. In the ſame manner as two objects which we may ſuppose to have relation to each other, are immediately related, when there is no third object intervening, but otherwiſe only mediate. This may be illuſtrated by the example of the connexion between a grandfather and his children, who may be ſaid to be mediately related; while the relation between the parents and children, on the contrary, is immediate; []
    • 1876, Henry C[lay] Work (lyrics and music), “Grandfather’s Clock. Song and Chorus”, New York, N.Y.: Published by C. M. Cady, [], →OCLC, page 34:
      My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf.— / So it stood ninety years on the floor; / It was taller by half than the old man himself, / Though it weighed not a pennyweight more. / It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, / And was always his treasure and pride; / But it stopp’d short—never to go again— / When the old man died.
    • 1965 March 25, Richard Willstätter, “My Ancestors”, in Lilli S[chwenk] Hornig, transl., edited by Arthur Stoll, From My Life: The Memoirs of Richard Willstätter: Translated from the German Edition, New York, N.Y., Amsterdam: W. A. Benjamin, →OCLC, page 10:
      Grandfather was friendly, formal, and strict with the children in his large family, and quite displeased with the lively goings-on of the grandchildren. [] He only joked with me once, when I was four, and never again. Our festive Sunday dinner was crowned by a pudding. Perhaps I looked too greedy—Grandfather threatened to throw the pudding out of the window. It is reported that I answered, "Then I'll jump out of the window and gobble it up all by myself."
    • 2016, Jo-Pei Tan, Ann Buchanan, “Links between Grandfather Involvement and Adolescent Well-being in England and Wales”, in Ann Buchanan, Anna Rotkirch, editors, Grandfathers: Global Perspectives (Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life), London: Palgrave Macmillan, →DOI, →ISBN, part IV (Impact on Grandfathers), page 233:
      Both paternal and maternal grandfathers were highly involved in various facets of adolescents' lives, with maternal grandfathers providing more support in general []. It was found that, on average, maternal grandfathers were more involved with adolescent grandchildren than paternal grandfathers. Adolescents also felt closer to maternal grandfathers compared to paternal grandfathers. This may be explained by the more regular contact and closer geographical distance between these grandfathers and adolescents.
  2. (by extension) A male forefather.
    Synonyms: (rare) highfather, grandsire
    • 1758 November 25, [Israel Daniel Rupp], “[No. XI.] Post’s Second Journal, 1758. The Second Journal of Christian Frederick Post, on a Message from the Governor of Pennsylvania, to the Indians of the Ohio, in the Latter Part of the Same Year.”, in Early History of Western Pennsylvania, and of the West, [], Pittsburgh, Pa.: Published by A. P. Ingram, []; Harrisburg, Pa.: Published by W. O. Hickok, published 1848, →OCLC, page 111:
      Brethren: Here is the pipe which your grandfathers used to smoke with when they met together in councils of peace. And here is some of that good tobacco, prepared for our grandfathers from God:—When you shall taste of it, you shall feel it through all your body; and it will put you in remembrance of the good councils your grandfathers used to hold with the English, your brethren, and that ancient friendship they had together.
  3. (computing) The archived older version of a file that immediately preceded the father file.
    • 1983, Computerworld, volume 17, number 50, page 22:
      File C is the grandfather because it was used to create file B.
    • 2004, Ray Bradley, The Ultimate Computing Glossary for Advanced Level, page 31:
      Three generations of file are usually kept, being the grandfather, father and son files.
    • 2007, O. Ray Whittington, Patrick R. Delaney, Wiley CPA Exam Review 2008: Auditing and Attestation, page 556:
      The file from which the father was developed with the transaction files of the appropriate day is the grandfather.
Derived terms[edit]


grandfather (third-person singular simple present grandfathers, present participle grandfathering, simple past and past participle grandfathered)

  1. (transitive) To be, or act as, a grandfather to.

Etymology 2[edit]

From grandfather clause: see grandfather (etymology 1) and clause.


grandfather (third-person singular simple present grandfathers, present participle grandfathering, simple past and past participle grandfathered)

  1. (transitive, chiefly US, law) To retain discontinued laws or rules for (a thing, person or organization previously affected by them). [from 1950s]
    • 2009 June 19, David Migoya, “Arvada homes haunted by past due code violations”, in The Denver Post[1], Denver, Colo.: Digital First Media, published 6 May 2016 (update), →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 3 December 2017:
      Had the original work been permitted, it would be grandfathered into any code changes each time they occurred, Arvada officials said. The latest came in 2006.
    • 2013 October 22, Alan Greenblatt, “The Racial History of the Grandfather Clause”, in NPR[2], archived from the original on 30 March 2019:
      Old power plants are sometimes grandfathered from having to meet new clean air requirements.
    • 2013 October 22, Alan Greenblatt, “The Racial History of the Grandfather Clause”, in NPR[3], archived from the original on 30 March 2019:
      In 1915, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Guinn v. United States that grandfather clauses were unconstitutional. [] The decision had almost no effect, however. The Oklahoma Legislature met in special session to grandfather in the grandfather clause. The new law said those who had been registered in 1914 – whites under the old system – were automatically registered to vote, while African-Americans could only register between April 30 and May 11, 1916, or forever be disenfranchised. That law stayed on the books until a Supreme Court ruling in 1939.
    • 2014, Matthew J. Fullana, Gary E. Wnek, “History of Techniques and Materials Used in Volume Enhancement”, in Charles K. Herman, Berish Strauch, editors, Encyclopedia of Aesthetic Rejuvenation through Volume Enhancement, New York, N.Y.: Thieme Medical Publishers, →ISBN, section 2.5.1 (Silicone Breast Implants), page 12:
      With the signing of the Medical Devices Amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic in 1976, the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] gained regulatory authority over [breast] implants, but the existing Cronin-Gerow implants were grandfathered, making them exempt from the new legislation.
    • 2014 July 14, Associated Press, “Army: Soldier grandfathered in under tattoo policy”, in The Washington Times[4], Washington, D.C.: The Washington Times, LLC, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 15 July 2014:
      The U.S. Army says a Kentucky National Guard soldier with aspirations of joining a U.S. Army special operations unit is grandfathered in under new regulations concerning soldiers with tattoos and asked a federal judge to dismiss his lawsuit. [] The regulations went into effect in March and ban tattoos below the knee or elbow. Soldiers who already have the ink are grandfathered in. Under the new regulations, any soldier with tattoos is barred from seeking a promotion to warrant officer or commissioning as an officer.
    • 2017 November, “Annex B: Guidance on Closing Off of Regimes and Grandfathering for non-IP Regimes”, in Harmful Tax Practices – 2017 Progress Report on Preferential Regimes: Inclusive Framework on BEPS: Action 5 (OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifing Project), Paris: OECD Publishing, →DOI, →ISBN, →ISSN, page 27:
      In practice, most of the regimes reviewed by the FHTP [Forum on Harmful Tax Practices] during its early years and which were abolished were either terminated without grandfathering or included grandfathering within this maximum five-year period.
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ graunt, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 7 April 2019.
  2. ^ fā̆der, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 7 April 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 grandfather, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2015; “grandfather”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  4. ^ grandfather, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2015.

Further reading[edit]