I was reading a text from Hans H. Øberg, and I saw in the text the following sentences:

Noli dicere 'tatam' et 'mammam', Iuliola! Ea nomina a te audire nolumus. Ita loquuntur parvuli infantes, nec sermo infantium te decet. 'Patrem' et 'matrem' dicere oportet!

Those sentences told me that 'tata' was the definition of 'father'. But didn't Roman children call their father ''papa'?

If yes, why did they say tata instead of papa?

If no, where does the name 'papa' come from?

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    Can you explain why you chose pappa as a potential alternative? And although you are writing in English, what language pappa is from? I'm hoping that by answering these questions you'll straighten out the thinking that's behind your question.
    – andy256
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 23:37
  • 1
  • Tata is the only one word for father in Romanian. "Parinte" is parent meaning mother or father. So, strangely enough, tata and mama are the first words we learn :). I checked and in Latin, Greek or Czech this is not the main word for father. In Romanian it is not just main but the only one.
    – user10832
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 0:28
  • @user10832 Considering that Romanian is a daughter language of Latin, that makes a lot of sense. The formal word pater was forgotten and the common word tata was used instead. You get that in Russian, too, where mama is used regularly, and mat' sounds weird.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 14:24
  • I thought "mamma" did not mean "mother", but "breast", whence "mammalia" (animals that have breasts, mammals). Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 8:26

1 Answer 1


Yes, children did call their fathers papa, though it was not as common as tata was, at least we think.

Both names are inherited from Indo-European as you can see and are even present in English: cf. paw or papa (also the origin of grampa) and dad or daddy.

Etymonline, though, says that in English papa comes via French:

papa n. "father," 1680s, from French papa, from Latin papa, originally a child's word, similar to Greek pappa (vocative) "o father," pappas "father," pappos "grandfather." The native word is daddy; first use of papa was in courtly speech, as a continental affectation, not used by common folk until late 18c.

For completeness' sake:

dad n. recorded from c. 1500, but probably much older, from child's speech, nearly universal and probably prehistoric (compare Welsh tad, Irish daid, Czech, Latin, Greek tata, Lithuanian tete, Sanskrit tatah, all of the same meaning).

  • 1
    Is it safe to assume that Vatican leader's name is related to greek or latin word too? Curiously today slavic languages use papa as affection of child to father, while at least in case of Ukrainian and Russian just a hundred years ago "tyatya" or "tata" was a child word. Contrary, in Japanese "tata" is mother
    – Swift
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 13:32
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    @Swift Yep, "pope" descends from "papa." Which is actually too bad because there's a pretty cool Latin word, popa.
    – cmw
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 13:35
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    Explains why in Russian pope is called papa to advantage of being used for puns, while second word, popa.. is.. "cushioning" word that means butt (well, like English "rump")
    – Swift
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 13:38
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    @Swift: In Japanese, "mother" is haha, for earlier (8th–16th Century, at least) fafa, and possibly pre-historic (as in, before any written records) papa. "Father" is chichi, which at some point in the past must have been titi. But tata is not a kinship term in Japanese.
    – Wtrmute
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 12:41

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