Family in Italian: 18+ Italian Family Words to Make Your Nonna Proud

The word for family in Italian is la famiglia .

If you’re learning the Italian language, you’re also learning about the culture behind it, and family is a very important aspect of Italian culture.

In this post, we’re going to learn some vocabulary about the different members of the family in Italian—from your loving nonni (grandparents) to your other half, your marito (husband) or moglie (wife).



18+ Italian Family Words to Add to Your Vocabulary

1. Il padre  (father)

He’s the head of the family. He’s dad.

In Italian families, he’s called padre (father), the same word you’d use for a priest.

But we don’t really call our dads “father,” do we? It’s too formal, unless we belong to the set of “Downton Abbey.” We tend to say “dad” or “daddy.”

In Italian, you can use papà  and babbo to refer to your dad. They are warm and endearing options, much less formal than padre

Babbo is mostly used in Tuscany and other central regions of Italy, such as Umbria. In regions of northern and southern Italy it’s more common to say and hear papà

2. La madre  (mother)

Like padre, madre (mother) is just too formal.

Mamma (mom/mommy) is more like it. 

If you’ve grown up eating the most delicious food, and you haven’t been allowed to go out on a Saturday night because of unspeakable dangers…you’ve probably grown up with a loving mother—and a very Italian one, at that.

Mothers are such an important part of the family and in Italian there is even a term for “mama’s boys,” who are grown-up men who find it hard to leave the nest, still opting to live with their parents: mammoni  (plural) or mammone  (singular).

There’s no one quite like your mother and in Italy, they have a saying:

“Amor di madre, amore senza limiti.” (A mother’s love has no limits.)

3. I genitori (parents)

Cognates are words in different languages that have similar origins and therefore also have similar sounds and meanings.

English and Italian have loads of cognates, like “familiar” and familiare . They look so similar you can usually guess the meaning even if you don’t know the word.

But there are also “false cognates”—words that look very similar but have totally different meanings. 

Parenti is an example of a “false friend,” a false cognate. It doesn’t mean “parents,” it means “relatives.” 

Parents in Italian is i genitori . Remember that!

4. Il fratello  (brother)

This word is easier to remember if you think of “frats,” those Greek-lettered “fraternities” in college. 

If you want to talk about “brothers,” (or a group of brothers and sisters) the plural form of il fratello in Italian is i fratelli

If you find yourself among siblings, the oldest one’s called il più grande (oldest) in Italian. The youngest is il più piccolo , and di mezzo (the middle) is used to describe the one in the middle, for example: il fratello di mezzo  (the middle brother) or il figlio di mezzo  (the middle son).

5. La sorella  (sister)

If you’ve ever had a sorella, especially an older one, you know that they can be both protective and loving…and, okay, maybe a little annoying, too.

But when you grow up, you’ll find that, no matter what your differences were in younger years, she can be a great amica  (friend).

The plural for “sisters” is le sorelle

6. Il marito  (husband)

When married, an Italian man goes from celibe (single/unmarried) to il marito (the husband).

If you’re “married,” that’s sposato (married, masculine) or sposata (married, feminine) in Italian. 

If you’re a single guy, you’re celibe . If you’re a single lady, that’s called nubile .

Someone divorced is divorziato (masculine) / divorziata (feminine). And if you consider yourself “separated,” then you’re separato (masculine) / separata (feminine).

If you’re widowed you’re vedovo (masculine) / vedova (feminine).

In Italian you can use the verb essere  (to be) to describe the state of your relationship. For example:

Sono sposata  (I am married).

Giovanni e Sofia sono sposati da 5 anni (Giovanni and Sofia have been married for 5 years).

7. La moglie (wife)

The Italian Wife

The Italian wife might be stereotyped as the strong matriarch figure, but remember that although women do play a very important role in the Italian family unit, it’s unfair to hold everyone to a stereotype.

The book “The Italian Wife,” written by Kate Furnivall, shows a different side to this. It’s a historical fiction set in Mussolini’s Italy in the 1930s.

The book tells of Isabella, who was sitting at a café when a woman asked her to look after her daughter for a few minutes. This mother then climbed to the very top of the Bellina clock tower and kept walking until there was only air to step on.

The book will not only take you back in time, it’ll also take you through enchanting hillside towns, winding roads and charming piazzas. See old-era Italy through Kate Furnivall’s masterful descriptions, and learn something about the true meaning of family.

8. Il figlio / La figlia  (son / daughter)

Quick pronunciation note: The g here is silent. When you have gli in Italian, you pronounce it as a double l or ll. So figlio is pronounced “fee-llyo,” and figlia is pronounced “fee-llya”—with the letter g nowhere to be heard.

Sons and daughters are coddled in childhood, with the family unit (and its extension) specifically geared to raising them properly. In return, the kids are expected to show respect to elders.

As testament to the importance of family in the Italian culture, you’ll find plenty of sayings about it used by native speakers, such as:

“Tale padre, tale figlio.” (like father, like son)

“Tale madre, tale figlia.” (like mother, like daughter) 

These phrases can also be switched around to say: “Tale padre, tale figlia.” (like father, like daughter) or “Tale madre, tale figlio.”  (like mother, like son).

This expression might evoke something positive, funny or nostalgic, like when your daughter drops a lump of spaghetti onto her lap, slathering herself with tomato sauce. However, it can also imply something negative, like a bad behavioral trait that has been inherited.

9. Lo zio / La zia  (uncle / aunt)

If you change the letter z to the letter t, then you have the Spanish equivalent of “uncle” and “aunt”—tío and tía (zio and zia in Italian).

The more you study these languages, the more you’ll notice the great overlap between them. Spanish and Italian are both descended from Latin and are considered two of the Romance languages.

They’re called “Romance” languages because they’re descended from the language once spoken by the Romans and belong to the same language family. It’s always interesting to see how language evolved and which words remained similar across time and space.

10. Il nonno  (grandfather)

In Italian culture, raising the kids of the family is treated with the utmost importance and everybody chips in. 

It’s very common in Italian families for the grandparents to have an active role in raising the grandchildren. Especially these days when husband and wife are out working, nonno might very well be left with the kids.

In Italy, they believe that “Guai a quella famiglia che non ha vecchi.” (A family with no elderly is a doomed family.)

This really speaks to the richness of wisdom and experience that elders bring, the life gems they can impart to the next generation.

And because grandpa and grandma, i nonni  (the grandparents), love to spoil the children, the little ones often adore them.

11. La nonna  (grandmother)

The nonna is the true head of the Italian family. 

Sometimes she’s called nonnina (little grandmother). 

Italian grandmothers are the vessels of family traditions, family histories and family secrets. 

If you’re wondering how a big Italian family is kept together, it’s probably nonna’s job. She’s the glue that holds everybody in check. She also plays a vital role in making sure that Italian culture and traditions get passed from one generation to the next.

12. Il nipote / La nipote (grandson, nephew / granddaughter, niece)

Nipote comes from the Latin nepos, which means descendant. The word is also where we get “nepotism”—which is the practice of placing one’s own family and relatives in positions of power or preferential treatment.

You may notice that, unlike the other family words on this list, the endings of these words do not change to indicate gender. The Italian word nipote is used to say grandchild (grandson and granddaughter), niece and nephew. You’ll know the gender once an article or possessive adjective is used. For example:

Mio nipote — My grandson/nephew

La mia bella nipote  My beautiful granddaughter/niece

I miei nipoti — My grandchildren/nephews/niece and nephew

Le mie nipoti  My granddaughters/nieces

The plural of nipote in Italian is nipoti.

13. Il cugino / La cugina  (cousin)

For Italian families, Sunday is family day. Everybody’s there—at somebody’s house—bringing all the different types of food.

You’re likely to also see i cugini  (the cousins) at the family gathering.

14. Il fidanzato / La fidanzata  (fiancé / fiancée)

It used to be that fidanzato and fidanzata only referred to people who were set to be married. But over time, their use has extended to simple boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.

As well as fidanzato and fidanzata, you may also hear the terms ragazzo (boy) and ragazza  (girl) which can also be used to convey boyfriend-girlfriend relationships. You say:

il mio ragazzo — my boy

la mia ragazza — my girl

Although it’s worth noting that ragazzo and ragazza are mostly used in Italian by teenagers and young adults who are in a relationship. It’s more common to hear adults in long-term relationships use fidanzato and fidanzata.

You may also hear adults say compagno and compagna , which are used in Italian to say “partner,” for example, when you are an adult and you are not legally married to your other half.

15. Il patrigno / La matrigna  (stepfather / stepmother)

Here’s another example of the silent g in Italian.

Italian is generally a language where words are pronounced just as they’re spelled. Like Spanish, the spelling and the pronunciation in Italian go together so closely that once a word is given, you already know how it’s spelled.

There are, of course, some exceptions. And this is one of them.

Patrigno and matrigna  has that gn consonant combination. We don’t pronounce the g here. Instead, the gn combination is pronounced as an ny.

So patrigno is pronounced “patree-nyo” and matrigna is pronounced “matree-nya.”

And yes, gnocchi  is pronounced “nyo-kee.”

16. Il suocero / La suocera  (father-in-law / mother-in-law)

When you get married, your in-laws will soon become an important part of the family. In Italian, suocero means “father-in-law” and suocera is “mother-in-law.” 

Not only will you welcome your suoceri  (in-laws) into your family, but you will also become il genero (son-in-law) or la nuora  (daughter-in-law). 

There is a saying that “la suocera non pensa mai che fu la nuora” (a mother-in-law never remembers she used to be a daughter-in-law).

17. Il cognato / La cognata  (brother-in-law / sister-in-law)

For Italians, a marriage doesn’t divide a family. Quite the opposite, actually: Marriage extends or expands a family. So you not only have a set of suocero and suocera, you’ll likely also gain some cognato (brother-in-law) and cognata (sister-in-law).

In-laws are really treated like family. Just as you’re welcomed to your husband’s or wife’s circle, you also welcome them to your own.

And the result? Sunday lunches become bigger, longer tables are set up in the yard, you get invited to more events and see a whole new generation grow.

In many Italian towns, you can actually see how the people are related by marriage and witness how that makes the bond between locals tighter.

18. Il bimbo / La bimba (baby)

And last but certainly not the least, we have the baby. There are many different words you can use to say “baby” in Italian, depending on different factors such as the region of Italy and the age of the child. 

Bebè and neonato  are often used to say “baby” or “newborn” in Italian.

Bimbo (baby boy/little boy) and bimba  (baby girl/little girl) are often used for infants up until the age of around 3 years old, although this may vary depending on the region of Italy.

You can also use bambino or bambina . This is most commonly used for slightly older children, rather than babies.

But if you mean “baby” romantically, then you can use words like amore (love) or tesorino / tesorina  (darling).

Although if you really want him to be part of la famiglia, you might want nonna to take a good look at him first.


So there you go! You now know what to call your family in Italian.

The best way to master these words will be to use them and see them used by native speakers. You want to use the terminology correctly and respectfully, after all. 

If there are any local Italian speakers around you can speak or listen to, then practice with them. If there aren’t any around, then you can still be on the lookout for family vocabulary whenever you consume Italian media, like books, TV shows, movies, podcasts and more.

You can also practice with language learning programs that show the words in context. For example, FluentU has a library of authentic Italian videos that include content related to everyday matters like family. Each clip has interactive subtitles so you can learn terms and expressions and see how they’re used by native Italian speakers.

Soon enough, you’ll be fitting right in with the famiglia

In bocca al lupo! (Good luck!)

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