The Italian grandmother is famous as the backbone of the Italian family. The matriarch, guardian of traditional family recipes, the glue that keeps everyone together . . . viva la nonna! Long live Italian grandmas!
Learn how to say nonna, the word for grandma and grandmother in Italian, as well as how to pronounce and use it. You’ll also find out the trick to how to say my grandma, talk about grandma and describe her, and how to talk about grandpa (nonno) and grandparents (nonni). There’s information about La Festa dei Nonni, or Grandparents’ Day, and Torta della Nonna, a famous dessert named for grandma. You can also listen to a well-loved Italian song about a special grandma’s noodles: Le Tagliatelle di Nonna Pina.
Table of Contents
GRANDMA IN ITALIAN – NONNA
The word for grandma, grandmother, gran, and granny is nonna.
Una nonna is a grandma, while la nonna means the grandma.
The pronunciation of nonna is: NOHN-nah
Listen to how to pronounce nonna here:
Ho una nonna meravigliosa!
I have a marvelous grandma!
In Italian, a double consonant is drawn out, and should take double the time of a single consonant. So make sure you give time to the double n in nonna. It may feel strange at first, but practice makes perfect!
GRANDMAS IN ITALIAN
Nonne means grandmas, grandmothers, grans and grannies in Italian. Nonne is the plural of nonna.
The pronunciation of nonne is: NOHN-neh
Listen to how to pronounce nonne here:
Tutte e due le nonne di Marco si chiamano Patrizia!
Both of Marco’s grandmothers are named Patrizia!
NONNINA – A TERM OF ENDEARMENT
Nonnina, or little grandmother, is a term of endearment, and an especially affectionate way to say grandma in Italian.
The pronunciation of nonnina is: nohn-NEE-nah
Listen to how to pronounce nonnina here:
Nonnina quanto ti voglio bene!
(Little) grandma I love you so much!
GREAT GRANDMA IN ITALIAN
Bisnonna means great grandma, or great grandmother, in Italian.
The pronunciation of bisnonna is: BEEZ-nohn-nah
Listen to how to pronounce bisnonna here:
La bisnonna di Serena ha 100 anni! Serena’s great grandmother is 100 years old!
HOW TO USE THE WORD NONNA
SPEAKING TO GRANDMA IN ITALIAN
When you are speaking to her, you can call your grandma nonna in Italian. Here are some examples:
Happy birthday Grandma!
To be specific when speaking to or about a certain grandmother, you can use her name as you would in English.
Nonna Letizia is Grandma Letizia
Nonna Paola abita lontano ma Nonna Margherita abita accanto.
Grandma Paola lives far away but Grandma Margherita lives next door.
Italians also use la nonna to refer to their grandma, or to grandmothers in general.
Guarda, c’è la nonna!
Look, there’s Grandma!
A: Papà, dov’è la nonna? Dad, where’s Grandma?
B: È andata a prendere tuo fratello a scuola. She’s gone to pick your brother up at school.
MY GRANDMA: POSSESSIVES
When you wish to say my grandma, or my grandmother, use mia nonna.
Usually possessives in Italian also require the direct article (the). For example: la mia amica means my (female) friend. However, family members are a big exception.
Do not use the direct article with the SINGULAR, unaltered nouns of most family members. If there is an adjective before or after the family member, use the article. Also, use the article with the possessive loro.
|mia nonna is my grandma|
tua nonna is your grandma (informal you)
sua nonna is his/her/your grandma (formal you)
|nostra nonna is our grandma|
vostra nonna your grandma (plural you)
La loro nonna is their grandma
La mia fantastica nonna is my fantastic grandma
La mia nonnina is my (little) grandma
WORDS THAT GRANDMAS CALL THEIR GRANDCHILDREN
Grandmas are known for spoiling their grandchildren and Italian grandmothers are no exception. Here are some terms of endearment that grandmothers use, which both translate to grandma’s sweetheart in English:
Amore della nonna means Grandma’s sweetheart (literally Grandma’s love)
Bello/bella della nonna means Grandma’s sweetheart (literally Grandma’s handsome boy/Grandma’s beautiful girl)
GRANDPA IN ITALIAN
Nonno means grandpa, or grandfather in Italian. To learn more, read Grandpa in Italian.
The pronunciation nonno of is: NOHN-noh
Listen to how to pronounce nonno here:
GRANDMAS AND GRANDPAS: GRANDPARENTS
There are two ways to say grandmas and grandpas, or grandmothers and grandfathers in Italian.
The first is nonne e nonni (literally: grandmas and grandpas, or grandmothers and grandfathers).
However, because of how Italian word genders work, the plural masculine word nonni (grandpas, grandfathers) can be used for a mixed group of grandmothers and grandfathers: grandparents. This is true even if there are 100 grandmothers and 2 grandfathers: just one man trumps a feminine group and turns the noun masculine, to nonni. So the word for grandparents in Italian is nonni.
You may want to read more about Relatives in Italian.
FESTA DEI NONNI: GRANDPARENTS’ DAY IN ITALIAN
Italy does not celebrate a Grandmothers’ Day. Instead, there is Grandparents’ Day to give Italian grandmothers and grandfathers their due.
In Italy, Grandparents’ Day is called La Festa dei Nonni, and it is celebrated on October 2nd, which is also the Catholic church’s feast day of Guardian Angels. Italian grandparents do watch over their grandchildren, in fact, they are the backbone of the childcare system: in 2020 it was reported that Italian grandparents were the primary babysitters in 60% of households for children age 0-5, and 47% for children age 5- 10, where both parents worked.
There are about 182 elderly people for every 100 young people in Italy. Despite grandparents’ (and their labor’s) importance in Italian culture, the Festa dei Nonni only became an official holiday in 2005, and still is not a deeply rooted or major holiday in Italy. The Festa dei Nonni does have an official flower which grandchildren give their grandparents: the nontiscordardimé, or forget-me-not.
HOW TO DESCRIBE YOUR GRANDMOTHER IN ITALIAN
Want to write your Grandma a Grandparents’ Day card, or a birthday card in Italian? Or maybe you’d like to brag in Italian about how great your Grandma is? Here are some ways to talk to, or about your grandmother:
Sei la miglior nonna del mondo!
You’re the best grandma in the world!
Ti voglio molto bene nonna!
I love you very much Grandma!
La mia nonna è la migliore del mondo! Le voglio molto bene!
My grandma is the best in the world! I love her very much!
Attenzione!! Italians use ti voglio bene to tell a family member or platonic friend I love you, not ti amo! The direct translation of ti voglio bene is I want you well and it’s used for friendly and familial love.
On the other hand, ti amo means I love you and is reserved for romantic love. Use it with your spouse, partner, lover, or significant other.
Here are some useful adjectives for describing your Grandma in Italian:
Nonna sei . . . Grandma you’re . . .
Mia nonna è . . . My grandma is . . .
TORTA DELLA NONNA
Italian families have plenty of grandma’s recipes to brag about. One special dessert in particular bears grandma’s name: La Torta della Nonna, or Grandma’s cake. It is actually a pie of shortcrust pastry (pasta frolla) filled with crema pasticcera, or pastry cream.
GRANDMA SONG: LE TAGLIATELLE DI NONNA PINA
An inescapable Italian children’s song about nonna is Le Tagliatelle di Nonna Pina, or Grandma Pina’s Tagliatelle (Noodles). It was written by Gian Marco Gualandi, about his suocera, or mother-in-law. The song won the 46th Zecchino D’Oro international children’s song competition in 2003.
The original lyrics, with translation, are:
|Sono le tagliatelle di nonna Pina|
Un pieno di energia, effetto vitamina
Mangiate calde col ragù
Ti fanno il pieno per sei giorni ed anche più
Perché le tagliatelle di nonna Pina
Son molto più efficaci di ogni medicina
Sensazionali a pranzo, a cena e credi a me
Son buone anche al mattino al posto del caffe
|Grandma PIna’s tagliatelle|
A full tank of energy, it works like vitamins.
Eaten hot with meat sauce
it’ll keep you full for six days, or even more.
Because Grandma PIna’s tagliatelle
works better than any medicine.
Fantastic at lunch, dinner, and believe me
it’s good even in the morning instead of coffee.
Le Tagliatelle di Nonna Pina has become a ubiquitous children’s song and cultural sensation: it exists in various DJ remixes, is used on a famous cooking show La Prova del Cuoco among other Italian shows, and is a song on the cartoon 44 Cats, which has a Granny Pina character.
Here is the original version, sung at the 46th Zecchino D’Oro by Ottavia Dorrucci, who was 5 years old at the time, and the Coro dell’Antoniano children’s chorus. Be careful, it is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.