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See also: Nanny and Nanný



(1795) It has often been assumed that the English term was originally a widespread child's word for "female adult other than mother" (compare Greek νάννα (nánna, aunt), nanna). See also Welsh nain (grandmother).

On the other hand, according to recent research of the Dutch historical linguists Hans Beelen en Nicoline van der Sijs (published in Onze Taal, September 2018), on which see also, in Dutch), the term nanny (and the British colloquial nan for "grandmother") may actually be eponymous, viz. being originally an affective form (i.e. a hypocoristic) of the popular female name Anne. The Dutch statesman and scientist Constantijn Huygens Jr. made the following observation during one of his many sojourns in England (noted in his Journaal, dated 13 December 1692): "Yesterday I received 10lb of chocolate again, from niece Becker, and she had Nanny, her maid, bringing me the money that she had owed me" (Gisteren kreegh 10 ℔ choccolate wederom van nicht Becker, en had Nanny, haer meidt, geweest om mij 't geldt, dat van haer hebben most, te brengen). Beelen and van der Sijs therefore assumed that "since many female domestic servants were named "Nan" or "Nanny", the name became a sobriquet for the profession of "maid, childminder" in the 18th century". ("Omdat veel vrouwelijke huisbedienden in het Engels de voornaam Nan of Nanny hadden, verschoof de betekenis in de achttiende eeuw naar die van een beroepsaanduiding: ‘meid, kindermeisje’")


  • IPA(key): /ˈnæni/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æni


nanny (plural nannies)

  1. A child's nurse.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 14, in The China Governess[1]:
      Nanny Broome was looking up at the outer wall. Just under the ceiling there were three lunette windows, heavily barred and blacked out in the normal way by centuries of grime. Their bases were on a level with the pavement outside, a narrow way which was several feet lower than the road behind the house.
  2. (colloquial) A grandmother.
  3. (US, colloquial) A godmother.
  4. A female goat.
    • 1983, Douglas H. Chadwick, A Beast the Color of Winter: The Mountain Goat Observed, Bison Books, published 2002, →ISBN, page 159:
      Breeding is a consuming goal, and the ascendance of the sex drive is nearly as apparent in the behavior of a mountain goat billy. So given over is he to following and defending a succession of nannies as he searches for one in heat (estrus), he loses interest in food altogether; []
    • 2005, Richard Cannings, The Rockies: A Natural History, Greystone Books, published 2005, →ISBN, page 103:
      Nannies and billies look very similar, both having dangerously sharp, curved black horns.
    • 2013, Janet Hurst, The Whole Goat Handbook: Recipes, Cheese, Soap, Crafts & More, Voyageur Press, published 2013, →ISBN, page 28:
      A farmer friend keeps a video camera in the barn so she can turn on her goat cam and observe her animals at any time of the day or night. A baby monitor picks up the sounds of a nanny when she goes into labor—if the nanny is one who changes the usual pitch of her voice or nervously bleats during kidding.


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nanny (third-person singular simple present nannies, present participle nannying, simple past and past participle nannied)

  1. (intransitive, transitive) To serve as a nanny.
  2. (transitive, derogatory) To treat like a nanny's charges; to coddle. [from mid-20th c.]
    • 2013 February 21, “Unreality television”, in The Economist:
      In real life, says a Democratic campaign aide, members of Congress are too nannied by staff to stride about hatching plots, one-on-one.
    • 2016 June 24, Angie Willems, “'A drastic change was necessary' - Coventry reacts to Brexit vote”, in Coventry Telegraph:
      All politicians seem worried. After 40-plus years of being nannied by the EU they are now faced with having to stand on their own two feet.

Jamaican Creole[edit]


nanny (plural: nanny dem or nannys dem, quantified: nanny)

  1. Alternative spelling of Nanny.