If you’ve watched enough gangster movies, you probably know the Italian word for family: la famiglia. But what about if you want to talk about your family in Italian in real life?
For that, you will need to learn all the Italian words for family members, their gender, and how to use them… Do not worry though, we got you covered with this complete guide to the Italian family.
La famiglia: close family members
In Italy, family is sacred: it is an essential aspect of the culture and of every Italian’s life, so knowing all the terms to talk about your family is key if you want to sound like a native speaker.
Let’s start with those blessed creatures who put us into this world…
- I genitori (the parents)
I miei genitori sono Canadesi, ma vivono in Inghilterra.
My parents are from Canada, but they live in England.
Careful here, as there is a word in Italian that is dangerously similar to “parents”: i parenti. This, however, means “the relatives”, and not “the parents”!
- i parenti (the relatives)
I tuoi parenti vivono in Italia?
Do your relatives live in Italy?
The parents are:
- la madre / la mamma (mother / mom)
Mia madre sta avendo dei problemi con il lavoro.
My mother is having some problems at work.
- il padre / il papà / il babbo (father / dad)
Il mio babbo fa il falegname.
My dad is a carpenter.
As you might have guessed, il padre and la madre are more formal, while mamma and papa (or babbo) is the endearing term most Italians use to refer to their parents.
Some other terms you want to learn are those that refer to spouses:
- il marito: husband
Mio marito è Giapponese.
My husband is Japanese.
- la moglie: wife
Mia moglie è un’atleta olimpica.
My wife is an Olympic athlete.
- il figlio: son
- la figlia: daughter
If you want to talk about multiple children, you can say i figli if they are only boys or mixed, and le figlie if they are only girls.
Giovanni ha tre figlie.
Giovanni has three daughters.
As in English, if you are talking about young children, you can use the words bambino / bambina (child).
Then you want to be able to talk about your siblings… Careful though, there is no word for “sibling” in Italian, you will always have to specify the gender!
- il fratello: brother
Quanti fratelli hai?
How many brothers do you have?
- la sorella: sister
Mia sorella si chiama Giorgia.
My sister’s name is Giorgia.
La famiglia: extended family in Italian
Then, there is what we call “the extended family” in English, which in Italian is still la famiglia, and it can actually be as close as your closer family members!
The older generation
- i nonni: grandparents
I miei nonni vivono a Napoli.
My grandparents live in Naples.
- il nonno: grandfather
Tuo nonno è Italiano?
Is your grandfather Italian?
- la nonna: grandmother
Mia nonna cucina benissimo!
My grandma cooks so well!
- i bisnonni: great grandparents
I tuoi bisnonni sono ancora vivi?
Are your great grandparents still alive?
- il bisnonno: great grandfather
Il mio bisnonno ha appena compiuto novant’anni.
My great grandfather just turned 90.
- la bisnonna: great grandmother
La mia bisnonna si chiama Adele.
My great grandmother’s name is Adele.
The younger generation
- i nipoti: grandchildren
Luca ha già due nipoti!
Luca already has two grandchildren!
- il nipote: grandson
- la nipote: granddaughter
Mia nipote ha iniziato la scuola oggi.
My granddaughter started school today.
- pronipote: great grandson/ great granddaughter
And here are other very important family members, which in Italian families are usually considered part of the closest famiglia:
- la zia / le zie: the aunt
- lo zio /gli zii: the uncle
- il cugino: cousin (male)
Giuseppe è tuo cugino? Non lo sapevo!
Is Giuseppe your cousin? I did not know!
- la cugina: cousin (female)
- il nipote: nephew
Mia sorella e mio nipote vengono a cena stasera.
My sister and my nephew will come for dinner tonight.
- la nipote: niece
Have you noticed? The Italian word for grandson/daughter and nephew and niece is the same: il nipote / la nipote.
During a conversation, you will have to understand which one people mean by the context! If your 30-year-old Italian friend is talking about sua nipote, for example, he probably means his sister’s daughter, and not his own granddaughter!
La famiglia: the in-laws in Italian
Of course, no family is complete without the in-laws. And, in Italian, things get a little more interesting here than they are in English! Nothing to worry about thoug, just some more terms to memorize, and these will actually make you sound like you know what you’re doing with your language skills.
- il suocero:father-in-law
- la suocera:mother-in-law
- i suoceri:parents-in-law
Domani andiamo a pranzo dai miei suoceri.
Tomorrow we’ll have lunch with my parents-in-law.
- il genero:son-in-law
Il marito di mia figlia è mio genero.
My daughter’s husband is my son-in-law.
- la nuora:daughter-in-law
La moglie di mio figlio è mia nuora.
My son’s wife is my daughter-in-law.
- il cognato:brother-in-law
Mio cognato è il marito di mia sorella.
My brother in law is my sister’s husband.
- la cognata:sister-in-law
Mia cognata è la moglie di mio fratello.
My sister-in-law is my brother’s wife.
La famiglia: modern families in Italian
In modern families, it is not at all uncommon for people to separate, remarry and start a family with another partner, who might already have children themselves. In Italian, we have words for these relations, although they have a somewhat negative sense.
As you can see, they all have pejorative suffixes in Italian.
These words are not commonly used anymore, as they are considered derogative by some, but it is good to know them!
- il patrigno: stepfather
- la matrigna: stepmother
- il figliastro: stepson
- la figliastra: stepdaughter
- il fratellastro: stepbrother
- la sorellastra: stepsister
Instead of these terms, people now prefer to describe the relation they have with the person. For example, il patrigno can be il marito di mia madre, a figliastro can be il figlio di mio marito, etc.
There is also a new word proposed a few years ago to describe a stepchild: configlio.