Großeltern) as a compound noun is attested in German since the 16th century [1. 532]. It was probably created by analogy to the terms
grandmother, already found in 12th-century texts. Initially, though,
grandparents was used as a general term for ancestors, like Old High German
ana (cf. Ger.
Ahnin). Not until the 18th century was the range of meanings restricted to the parents of one’s parents. Unlike many older Germanic kinship terms (e.g.
Onkel, uncle), the term does not distinguish between paternal and maternal kinship [8. 180 f.].It has been suggested that the evolution of the term
grandparents took place in the context of demographic changes: the combination of late marriage (Marriage, contraction of), nuclear family households, and neolocality (establishment of a separate household by a couple) characteristic of the European marriage pattern in the early modern period made long-term, intensive ties between grandparents and grandchildren unlikely . These family and household structures, the theory holds, led generally to a low level of solidarity between the generations, a situation in which the elderly and sick could not count on much support from the nuclear f…