1. the father of one’s father or mother.
  2. a forefather.
  3. the founder or originator of a family, species, type, etc.; the first of one’s or its kind, or the one being longest in existence: the grandfather of all steam locomotives.

verb (used with object)

  1. to exempt (something or someone) from new legislation, restrictions, or requirements: The law grandfathered all banks already operating at the time of passage. He was grandfathered into the pension plan.


  1. the father of one’s father or mother
  2. (often plural) a male ancestor
  3. (often capital) a familiar term of address for an old man
  4. dialect a caterpillar or woodlouse

early 15c., from grand (adj.) + father (n.), probably on analogy of French grand-père. Replaced grandsire and Old English ealdefæder. Grandfather clause originally (1900) referred to exemptions from post-Reconstruction voting restrictions in the U.S. South for men whose forebears had voted before the Civil War. Grandfather clock is c.1880, from the popular song; they were previously known as tall case clocks or eight-day clocks.

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