There are a lot of ways that we can call ourselves as parents; mom is one of the most common variations of the word mother. But in the US, an informal word for mom is typically momma. Some people spell it mama; but which is the right way?
For all intents and purposes, momma and mama are not pronounced differently. Most people would say these two words in the same way; it’s usually only the spelling that is different.
However, there are far many more intricacies to the common terms for mother and in this article, I’d like to take a closer look.
- “Momma” and “mama” are informal words for “mother” that are commonly used in the US.
- The words are derived from Old English, where the word for “mother” was “modor.”
- The spelling and pronunciation of these words varies depending on the speaker’s location, with North Americans using “momma” and “mom,” while English-speaking Canadians use “mummy” or “mum.”
Why Do We Use The Terms Momma And Mama?
Way back when, in the times when people used the old English language, the word for mother was actually modor. Not to be confused with the dark realm, Mordor, from the Lord Of The Rings books.
It is believed that all of the short words we use to call our mothers derive from this old English spelling. But what’s even more interesting is that the terms we are all familiar with, such as mom, mommy, mama, and so forth, don’t vary that much in other languages.
That’s because as babies learn to speak, some of the first sounds babies make begin with the letter M. They also make P sounds, which is likely where the term papa comes from. Look at the French word for mom; maman, or the Hindi word; mam, and it’s easy to see the commonalities.
Where In The World…?
Children all over the world use different words to refer to their mothers. This is the main thing that tells us there is no right or wrong way to spell or pronounce any of the variations or short terms for mother.
However, it is super interesting to see how English-speaking countries use these words based purely on geographical location.
In the United States, the term mom is one of the most commonly used words. However, down in the Southern US, most people would use the word momma.
Move up to Canada and things are quite different, despite the many similarities between the two countries and their geographical closeness.
English-speaking Canadians would typically use the term mummy or mum which is also common Down Under and in the UK. However, since Canada is a bilingual nation, there are also French speakers here. These people would generally use mamma or mama.
The UK And Europe
It depends where in the UK you come from as to how you might address your mother. For the most part, Brits will use the term mummy or mum to refer to their mother. However, there are some exceptions to this including the Irish and Welsh who tend to use ma or mammy.
In the Midlands, especially places like Birmingham and the Black Country, people lean more towards the American pronunciation and will use the word mom.
Europe is made up of around 54 countries so it would be impossible to discuss every variation of the word in each language in this short article. However, what I can tell you is that there is only a slight difference between countries with most European nations using some version of mama or mamma.
Australia was colonized by the Brits in the late 1700s. It therefore won’t surprise you to learn that Australians tend to use the same terms as the Brits for a lot of things and that includes how they say mother. Most Aussies will use either mum or mummy.
The Right Spelling And Grammar For Momma, Mama, Mommy, Mum, etc…
The way that you choose to spell mom or any of its variations is very much down to the person using the term. It’s as personal as the close relationship between a mother and her children and there are some parents that even have a preference and so will teach their children to use that particular word.
To this notion, there is no right or wrong way of spelling momma or mama. It’s also very much a geographical thing. In the Southern United States, people are more likely to refer to their mothers as momma. Of course, momma is also a slang term often used to talk about a nice-looking lady.
Note that there are no recorded uses of the word momma until the 1800s. However, mama was used more than 300 years prior to this in both written and spoken English.
What you need to keep in mind is that these words are personal to you and you will have begun to form those first words long before you are even aware of how they are spelt.
That said, there is one grammatical aspect of the momma, ma, mama debate and that is whether these words should be capitalized.
Proper grammar dictates that if you are using the word mom or any of its variations to replace your mother’s actual name, then it requires a capital letter. For example, I am going to visit Mom. On the other hand, if you are using the term as a possessive then you wouldn’t need to use a capital letter, like this; I am going to visit my mom.
How you address your mother is a very personal thing. Long before we are even aware that spelling exists, we start to make our first sounds, and for babies these often begin with the letter M. That’s why the words for mommy all start with M in many languages.
But the words mama and momma are often the cause of debate with many people saying that their way is correct. In truth, there is no correct way; mama is just as viable a word as momma and any of the other ways you can say this.
You can even use the term momma to talk about an attractive woman by saying something like shes one hot momma! So, if you allow it, the topic can become even more confusing.
However you say or spell these words is just right. There’s no right or wrong and even if you wanted to make up a brand new word to address your mother, you’d be at liberty to do so.