Famiglia, an evocative heartfelt word for family in Italian

Loving. Devoted. Close. Somewhat nosy, quite overbearing, and rather noisy. In movies and TV shows, Italian families are typically depicted as being populous, boisterous, passionately protective, and playful. But what do they really look like? And what are the Italian words for the different members?

Wondering how to say brother in Italian? Read on, and get the basics covered!

The words for family members in Italian

First and foremost, let’s look at the names of the different family members. 

Genitori” is the Italian term for parents, i.e. mother and father. Take care, because the word “parenti”, dangerously close to the English word parents, means relatives and thus covers all members of the extended family, including in-laws!

Father in Italian is “padre”, but children call their dads “babbo” or “papà”.

The formal descriptive term for mother in Italian is madre, but children call their mother “mamma”. The use of these familiar informal terms does not change during one’s lifetime: a 50-year-old son will still call his parents babbo and mamma.

family words italian

Siblings, grandparents and cousins in Italian

Brother in Italian is “fratello”, while “sorella” is the word for sister in Italian. Remember that Italian grammar calls for plurals: an “i” for masculine and “e” for feminine. Hence, two or more brothers in Italian is “fratelli”, while two or more sisters in Italian is “sorelle”.

Ehi fratello – “yo brother” in Italian – who’s home?

Rowdy yes, exuberant also. But not necessarily large. The last thirty years have had a significant impact on Italian families and completely changed the prevailing household anatomy. The iconic traditional patriarchal Italian family, where mum stayed home and took care of 6 children, no longer exists. Today, both parents have jobs, and most Italian families have one or two children. Three kids per family unit are the absolute max one can encounter, and there are a lot of single-parent families too. 


The most expressive Italian quotes about family still speak the truth

I figli son pezzi di cuore”, i.e. children are pieces of one’s heart. 

A ogni uccello il suo nido è bello”, every bird loves its nest. 

And then again “una buona mamma vale cento maestre”, meaning a good mother is worth a hundred teachers. 

The most popular Italian quotes about family still exemplify the Italian family’s distinctive traits. Which, independently of modern-day families’ sizes, still are: 

  • devotion to offspring
  • strength of family traditions
  • respect for one’s parents, grandparents and elderly family members in general
  • loyalty and closeness always, through thick and thin
italian family

Unique features of the Italian family

La famiglia, the family in Italian, is still an essential feature of Italian society, and a paramount element in the life of Italians. Albeit smaller compared to 30 years ago, the family unit holds deep bonds with the extended family (uncles and aunts, cousins and in-laws). Il nonno e la nonna, i.e. the grandmother and grandfather in Italian, are also devoutly cherished, and play a vital role as children’s caretakers in most contemporary Italian households. 

What makes Italian families truly unique is that they supply all their members with constant unwavering backing, encouragement, and protection throughout every single phase of life.

Italian family celebrations

Sundays and holidays 

Because Italian family life has a lot to do with tradition, preserving and maintaining shared customs and practices, and getting together for family occasions, are considered extremely important. Many families reunite almost every Sunday, often for lunch, and virtually all do for birthdays, Christmas and Easter. These festivities call the whole extended family together, including in-laws, and imply long, leisurely meals and a lot of laughter.

italian family members

Mother’s day in Italy and Italian Father’s Day

Celebrating specific family members is imperative too, so on May 8th, which is Mother’s Day in Italy, sons, and daughters will be sure to present mamma with a gift and flowers. As regards the Italian Father’s Day, it is honored on March 19th, in correspondence with the day dedicated to San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph) in the Catholic calendar. Needless to say, whenever possible both are celebrated with a big lunch or dinner.

About Italian Father’s Day 

Saint Joseph was the Virgin Mary’s spouse, i.e. Jesus’ earthly “dad”, hence the day devoted to him was honored long before today’s “Father’s Day” was established. In fact, historical records prove that it was largely commemorated throughout all European Catholic countries ever since the Middle Ages. There are a great many ancient traditions linked to Italian Father’s Day, i.e. the day of San Giuseppe… can you guess what they involve? 

Food of course! And specifically decadent sweet treats. 

Tantalizing Italian Father’s Day delicacies

Specialties prepared to celebrate Italian Father’s Day vary from region to region, but all are luscious and significantly sweet in flavor. In Rome and further south one is bound to find voluptuous Bigné di San Giuseppe, similar to (huge) cream puffs dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and Zeppole, more or less the same thing but larger, filled with custard-like cream and topped off by cherries. In Tuscany, bakeries’ and cafés’ windows will be filled with Frittelle, bite-size deep-fried rice and raisin dumplings, while Northern Italians will feast on Raviola, made with pastry dough and jam.


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