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Origin of nanny

1785–95; nursery word; compare Welsh nain grandmother, Greek nánna aunt, Russian nyánya nursemaid


  1. a female given name. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for nanny

governess, baby-sitter, nursemaid

Examples from the Web for nanny

Contemporary Examples of nanny

Historical Examples of nanny

  • "This would be truly a vain wish, dear Nanny, in the mixed company of a ship," she said.

    Homeward Bound

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • That the letter was read, Nanny, who is truth itself, affirms she saw.

    Homeward Bound

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • I was heedless of this command, and answered her by saying: 'What are you doing here, Nanny?'

    The Fairchild Family

    Mary Martha Sherwood

  • So Nanny and I repaired to the tree in question, and Nanny mounted into the tree.

    The Fairchild Family

    Mary Martha Sherwood

  • I would like to have one like it for our Nanny (meaning his wife).

British Dictionary definitions for nanny


noun plural -nies
  1. a nurse or nursemaid for children
    1. any person or thing regarded as treating people like children, esp by being patronizing or overprotective
    2. (as modifier)the nanny state
  2. a child's word for grandmother
verb nannies, nannying or nannied
  1. (intr) to nurse or look after someone else's children
  2. (tr) to be overprotective towards

Word Origin for nanny

C19: child's name for a nurse
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for nanny

"children's nurse," 1795, from widespread child's word for "female adult other than mother" (cf. Greek nanna "aunt"). The word also is a nickname form of the fem. proper name Ann, which probably is the sense in nanny goat (1788, cf. billy goat). Nanny-house "brothel" is slang from c.1700. Nanny state, in reference to overintrusive government policies is attested by 1987, the term associated with British political leader Margaret Thatcher, who criticized the tendency.


"to be unduly protective," 1954, from nanny (n.). Related: Nannied; nannying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper