Pawpaw and Papaw - Etymology?

Pawpaw and Papaw - Etymology?

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English Rob

Lebanon, TN

#1 Apr 23, 2009
Why do Americans spell the old Irish word "Papar"(Old Irish, meaning "father" or "pope"), Pawpaw or Papaw?

I cannot find an entry in Mirriam-Websters dictionary for Pawpaw or Papar other than a reference to a tree with purple flowers and an edible green-skinned fruit.

Is anyone familiar with the etymology of this word?

Does anyone know of the earliest use of this spelling variation in the Appalachian area?

Why is this colloquialism used as a definition Grandfather, when the original definition alludes to Father?
Maggie

Cleveland, TN

#4 Apr 26, 2009
English Rob wrote:
<quoted text>
So, you have no idea about the etymology of this word, Maggie.
Exactly what kind of news-worthy misfortune do you hope I will succumb to at the hands of some Hillbillies, Maggie? Something similar to your deflowering in your Father's tool shed?
you seem to know it all. why ask a stupid hillbilly?
Maggie

Cleveland, TN

#5 Apr 26, 2009
BTW, my dad never had a tool shed. he reminded me a lot of you. he always thought he was better than other people and looked down his nose at them.
kinda sad but oh well....his loss.
English Rob

Lebanon, TN

#6 Apr 27, 2009
Maggie wrote:
<quoted text>
you seem to know it all. why ask a stupid hillbilly?
Why, are you a "Stupid hillbilly", Maggie?
To pander to the pejorative, you certainly are foul-mouthed and lacking eloquence. You use the word "Hillbilly" with an ambivalence to suit your needs.

I have more than a passing interest in American History, especially the AWI, and of late, the Irish, Scots and English diasporas of Tennessee.

I asked a legitimate question on this forum because I hoped the answer would lie within the living memory of the descendants of the early settlers of Tennessee.

What do I get?

A venom-spitting woman, hoping that I succumb to news-worthy foul play.
Cherimoya

Elizabethtown, KY

#7 May 14, 2009
Pawpaw, Paw Paw, Papaw

DESCRIPTION
Growth Habit: The pawpaw is a deciduous, often narrowly conical tree growing from about 12 feet to around 20 feet. Pawpaw trees are prone to producing root suckers a few feet from the trunk. When these are permitted to grow, the single-clone pawpaw patch comes into being. The prevailing experiences of many individuals is that the pawpaw is a slow grower, particularly when it is young. However, under optimal greenhouse conditions, including photo-period extension light of approximately 16 hours, top growth of up to 5 feet can be attained in three months.
Foliage: The dark green, obovate-oblong, drooping leaves grow up to 12 inches long, giving the pawpaw an interesting tropical appearance. The leaves turn yellow and begin to fall in mid-autumn and leaf out again in late spring after the tree has bloomed.

Flowers: Dormant, velvety, dark brown flower buds develop in the axils of the previous years' leaves. They produce maroon, upside-down flowers up to 2 inches across. The normal bloom period consists of about 6 weeks during March to May depending on variety, latitude and climatic conditions. The blossom consists of 2 whorls of 3 petals each, and the calyx has 3 sepals. Each flower contains several ovaries which explains why a single flower can produce multiple fruits.

Fruit: The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to America. Individual fruits weigh 5 to 16 ounces and are 3 to 6 inches in length. The larger sizes will appear plump, similar to the mango. The fruit usually has 10 to 14 seeds in two rows. The brownish to blackish seeds are shaped like lima beans, with a length of 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches. Pawpaw fruits often occur as clusters of up to nine individual fruits. The ripe fruit is soft and thin skinned.
gee

Clayton, NC

#8 Apr 19, 2011
HEY! Did anybody out there ever find out from where the name Paw paw came? I'm wondering about that too. Hillbilly or not, I'm just curious about it's origins.

“Smart.Beautiful. Blonde :D”

Since: Oct 10

Location hidden

#9 Apr 25, 2011
http://books.google.com/books...

According to the first definitions listed, "papaw" was a word used amongst slaves. This might give a clue as to why "papaw" is predominantly popular in the south.
Still not sure about "mamaw." Maybe a mom/ma/mammy spin-off of "papaw?"
Still searching....
Wondering

Bristol, TN

#10 Apr 25, 2011
Why do we call an arse an ass? A grandfather can also be called gramps or grandpaw. Why are you so concerned? You say whatever you want! Leave others alone.
Urinal Cake

Bristol, VA

#11 Apr 27, 2011
English Rob is funny. Maggie, you just sadden me.
Highlander

United States

#12 Sep 21, 2012
It may be derived from the Irish "papar" which means father. I have also heard that "papaw" is an old indian name for grandfather or father.
Elizabeth

Kansas City, MO

#13 Oct 7, 2012
Maggie wrote:
<quoted text>
you really think your sh!t don't stink don't ya? someday one of these old HILLBILLIES will set you straight about that.
i just hope it ends up on johnny woods morning newscast so i can see it!
Oh Maggie, no one called you a hillbilly. It was a legit question. It was a question that I was searching for the answer to as well. I was born in the hills of Virginia & I have two Papaws to be exact.
You obviously couldn't understand the question asked, because there was no negativity toward anyone. So calm yourself you wild mountain woman ;)
kareninthemounta ins

Anniston, AL

#14 Feb 10, 2013
English Rob wrote:
Why do Americans spell the old Irish word "Papar"(Old Irish, meaning "father" or "pope"), Pawpaw or Papaw?
I cannot find an entry in Mirriam-Websters dictionary for Pawpaw or Papar other than a reference to a tree with purple flowers and an edible green-skinned fruit.
Is anyone familiar with the etymology of this word?
Does anyone know of the earliest use of this spelling variation in the Appalachian area?
Why is this colloquialism used as a definition Grandfather, when the original definition alludes to Father?
I grew up in Northern Alabama. In answer to your question, Yes, Both sets of my grandparents were called Pa'paw and Ma'maw. My grandparents honored their Irish heritage. the Dunaway, McKutchin, Atchley clans. They told me it was a way of identifying my lineage. I grew up playing on their farms and fishing with the entire family. We had Homecoming and decoration the first Sunday in June. We would spend time in the graveyard learning about family that had passed. We'd sing hymns around an oak tree. People would sing while they walked. Then we'd spread a feast of food - outside, in someone Pecan tree fiend and enjoy the day together. Today, I own an photography and art gallery. Redneck no, but I can say I miss my ma'maw and pa'paw. If you have a ma'maw and pa'paw.... you have it all.
Deb Harm

United States

#16 Dec 8, 2013
SE KY. We call our grandparents Mamaw and Papaw here as well. I think it's likely a derivation of an old Irish phrasing. My family too had "decoration" the second Sunday of June and dinner on the ground. Glad to see this information, always wondered about it.
Wendy

Burlington, NJ

#18 Apr 19, 2014
Maggie wrote:
<quoted text>
you really think your sh!t don't stink don't ya? someday one of these old HILLBILLIES will set you straight about that.
i just hope it ends up on johnny woods morning newscast so i can see it!
Why are you so offended that someone is educated and wants to know the history of a word currently in use in the American South? I found this thread for exactly the same reason - I was looking for the origins of the words Mamaw and Papaw. I now know that Papaw originated in Ireland (where many in the Appalachian south also originate). You're free as hell to remain un or under-educated, but there are a lot of us who enjoy learning things, even random things that don't otherwise enhance our personal lives. I was curious because I called my grandparents Nana and Poppop. My mother's sister and brother-in-law were called Grammy and Pappy. So many different words for the same members of the family. But, where did those words begin? So, Miss Maggie - if you have no interest in knowing, then please, by all means, continue to remain unknowing. But, stop attacking others who refuse to remain ignorant.
Kate

Jacksonville, FL

#19 Jun 8, 2014
HI, Thanks for the information. I grew up in the South but never heard this until I moved to Alabama where some close friends used Mamaw and Papaw. I always wondered about it. But there were definitely of Irish and Irish/Scot descent. So now I know. Thanks again.
DebRB

Colorado Springs, CO

#20 Jun 26, 2014
I am from West Tx and had a Papaw and Mamaw.They were from SE Tx.
Cindi406

Middletown, OH

#21 Nov 8, 2014
I can only share that my family is from the Appalachians particularly Whitley and Letcher counties in Kentucky and old Grainger county in TN. On both sides, we have always used the words Mamaw and Papaw. My family has Irish and Scottish roots with only Irish on one side. I agree that these words probably evolved as you state English Rob. It would be difficult to trace at this point I would think unless there is some writing from someone maybe in a Family Bible (as back in the day we all had Family Bibles) to trace the changes. Maybe this is where you would find your answer.
mjc

Mchenry, IL

#22 Jan 25, 2015
I am native to Choctaw/Chickasaw Nation and "Papaw" is a slang term used for grandfather amongst our tribes.
"Ignorance is ignoring something you know nothing about."
The South knows proper English, but that does not matter in the comfort of our homes. For instance, if someone is obviously a slang abuser, they are prpbably stupid.
mjc

Mchenry, IL

#23 Jan 25, 2015
mjc wrote:
I am native to Choctaw/Chickasaw Nation and "Papaw" is a slang term used for grandfather amongst our tribes.
"Ignorance is ignoring something you know nothing about."
The South knows proper English, but that does not matter in the comfort of our homes. For instance, if someone is obviously a slang abuser, they are prpbably stupid.
*probably
RMD

College Station, TX

#24 Mar 5, 2015
I am from Texas but my ancestors came from Appalachia. My grandfather was always Papaw and now that I am a grandfather my daughter insists that I should be Papaw also. I wanted to know its etymology and even the correct spelling but none of the dictionary resources seem to acknowledge its existence, which seems very strange to me. Ask anyone in the south what that term means and the response is going to be grandfather, much less use it in a context that would imply grandfather.

Maybe this well be a wake up call for the dictionary resources to do some research and get to the origin of the term and at least acknowledge it's existence.

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