Language Lunedi’ – La Famiglia


Language lunedi’ – La Famiglia

It has been ages since I put up a language post.  But having just returned from visiting my family, I thought what could be more appropriate than a little lesson related to center of Italian life:  la famiglia?

I think most Americans view Italian families like something from The Godfather:  five-ten kids and cousins all over the place. (ok, well, my hubby really does have cousins all over the place).    But generally speaking, a lot has changed over the years, in fact, Italy’s birth rate is the lowest it has been in 150 years.  In all of Europe, only Portugal’s birthrate is lower.

But apart from the low birthrates, the family still takes center stage in Italy and in this respect, the culture is still VERY much like The Godfather.  Or maybe a more lighthearted movie example would be Moonstruck.  They make a toast to the famiglia at minute 1.39 in this trailer, but the entire clip is worth a watch – SUCH a great movie!

Anyway, back to learning family names in Italian.   Here is the vocabulary associated with one’s relatives.  It might seem easy in the beginning, but once you REALLY start looking at it, you realize how many different relations we have outside our immediate families.

mom/mother mamma/madre
dad/father papa’/padre (Make sure to really say the accent at the end, otherwise people will think you are talking about he pope – which is papa.)
sister sorella
brother fratello
aunt zia
uncle zio
cousin cugina (feminine) cugino (masculine)
grandmother nonna
grandfather nonno
granddaughter nipote
grandson nipote
neice nipote
nephew nipote (yes, the same word for all four)
mother-in-law suocera
father-in-law suocero
sister or brother-in-law cognata or cognato
daughter-in-law nuora
son-in-law genero
wife moglie
husband marito
daughter figlia
son figlio
godmother madrina
godfather padrino
stepmother matrigna
stepfather patrigno
stepsister and half-sister sorellastra
stepbrother and half-brother fratellastro
great grandmother bisnonna
great grandfather bisnonno


Italian Family


38 Comments on “Language Lunedi’ – La Famiglia

  1. I loved this post and especially the pictures! Are all the pictures members of your family? Who is the woman second from the left in the bottom row? She is absolutely beautiful!

    • Well…yes…everyone is family. Thank you for your wonderful comment ….at first I was thinking you were talking about the group photo. Because the woman second from the left is my mother. She was gorgeous and still is…..but now I am thinking you are talking about the last row of photos…that was my father’s mother – also a beauty…either way.. both are wonderful!

  2. In our trips to Italy we have felt the strength of the family unit and it’s importance. I love the Italian language. I know just a few words and even though I am likely saying something like a rhinoceros is dancing in your kitchen, it all sounds so beautiful.

    • Hi Sue! I know right? They sound wonderful. For sure I butcher it every time I speak with my American accent……but I do the best I can and they appreciate it…. 🙂

  3. Diana, I love this post because of the wonderful photos of your family. I recognized your parents right off, then grandparents. Beautiful photos! I also appreciate the language lesson….I’m hoping to get to use them in November!

  4. Wow! What a gorgeous family. I come from a huge family with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins, but my son is an only child with only 1 cousin…how times change.

    • Awwwww…..see? I only had one uncle and 3 cousins – BUT I have lots of sisters. My hubby has a family like yours…..I always wanted lots of cousins….but now his cousins are like my cousins, so I guess I got my wish. 🙂

  5. The topic of La Famiglia is an interesting one, sometimes full of misleading stereotypes, which you have alluded to. Love all your old photos.

    • Hi Francesca…..yes…it is true…and even in Italy the picture of the classic family is changing. Many couples have kids and don’t get married….single parents, etc…..but in the end, I still see a much more traditional family atmosphere than in the States.

  6. I love your photos of family…one subject I love to talk about. Although the birth rate in Italy is drastically dropping, its refreshing to know that family is still family and traditions are still respected.

    • Hi Susan….yes…..”nothing can replace the family,” as it has been said. The birth rate thing is weird….I have lots of friends with three kids……but my husband says nearly none of his co-workers have kids. Anyway…thanks for stopping by….have a good week!

  7. There is a lot of joy and beauty in your amazing family photo.🙂 I have heard some of these Italian family names, from hubby, who calls his grandmother and grandfather with the Italian words (having grown up in Rome), but uses Albanian for other family members! Lol, kinda confusing to be honest. I never know what language he’s speaking, and sometimes their family even combines English, Albanian and Italian in 1 sentence!😮

    • Thank you so much for your sweet comment. And I guess my kids will grow up like your hubby mixing up Italian and English…we speak a lot like his family.

  8. What? No cugino/cugina in the list? Isn’t it a classic that everyone has a cugino who can fix/help/get you something/etc.😉

    • Now Alison – – I have to thank you so much! The cugini DID make the original list, but then I had to insert an excel table in the post to align everything and forgot about the poor cugini! Not sure how given that my husband has 25 cousins. Yes….25. And you are correct….they CAN fix/help/get you anything you need. Thanks so much!!!! 🙂

      • I think they’ve made whole movies dedicated to i cugini, so I figured they should be included.🙂 And wow, 25!

        • Yes…thank you again….and now I even added a photo of them…..the last one. And oddly enough it is remarkably like my parents’ photo! Love that!

  9. Bellissime foto!! These days it is hard to find families that can gather all together like this.
    I wanted to say I really like your new blog title. it is just perfect for an Italian blog!

    • Hi Alida! For sure hubby’s family is crazy huge and super close. They are fantastic……

      Glad you like the new name. 🙂

  10. Lovely article. In Farsi/Persian, we have specific word for each relative. Different name for uncle from mother side or father side. Even for male or female cousins… tells us if the cousin is from aunt or uncle and from father or mother side. No one needs to wonder the gender or which line you are cousins from.😀 )))

    • Hi Fae! Wow…the list must be long! But I LOVE that you can id who everyone is, by the word. VERY cool!

  11. For me, italian is the most beautiful language in the world. I would love to learn it, and now I know where to start – with la famiglia😉 I see that it is some similarities with spanish, so it should be possible. Now I have some homework to do😉

    • hi Paola…..awww…thanks….I love finding ways of sneaking in family pics. Have a good weekend!

  12. Hi Indah….thanks for your sweet comment. Yes…I am lucky to have a fab family…same for hubby. 🙂 Take care.

  13. Moonstruck is one of my all time favorite movies! Nicholas Cage was hot back in the day. I love the family photos. Great post, Diana.

    • Hi Lauren! Thanks so much! I know! Wasn’t Nicholas Cage so great??? LOVED that movie and even the music…..thanks for the comment!

  14. Ciao “sorella”, great post and loved your pics! Yes your mother was and still is gorgeous, but then so are you. (last photo, in the back near the curtain, vero!!) Love ya!

    • Ha, ha, ha SUSAN! You caught me! Gosh….I was one of the few “non-cousins” in that pic! Great eye! Anyway… know that for sure somehow you and I are long lost cousins! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  15. Pingback: | Italy: Translated! on | Serendipitous Cookery

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