How to Say UNCLE in Italian

Non c’è nessuno come mio zio.
There’s no one like my uncle. 

Learn all about how to say uncle, or zio, in Italian, how to pronounce it and examples of how to use it. Find out about related words, like uncles (zii) and great uncle (prozio), as well as slang expressions, and sayings that use the word uncle or zio


Zio means uncle in Italian. Uno zio is an uncle, while lo zio means the uncle.

The pronunciation zio of is: TSEE-oh 

Listen to how to pronounce zio here:

Just like the English word uncle, a zio is the brother of someone’s mother or father, or the husband of someone’s aunt or uncle. 

Sometimes Italians make the distinction between these two types of uncles. A zio acquisito (an acquired uncle) is an uncle by marriage (the husband of someone’s uncle or uncle).

Uno zio materno is an uncle on your mother’s side, while uno zio paterno is an uncle on your father’s side.

Good To Know: Why do we say uno zio instead of un zio to say an uncle, and lo zio instead of il zio to say the uncle? It’s all because zio starts with z. Words that start with z, ps, s + a consonant, gn, or x use the indefinite article uno, and the definite article lo.


Zii means uncles in Italian. I promise the spelling is correct, even though the two i’s together look wrong! Zii is the plural of zio

The pronunciation zii of is: TSEE-ee

Listen to how to pronounce zii here:

Francesco ha sei zii!
Francesco has six uncles!

Good To Know: Zii has two possible meanings. It can refer to a group of all uncles, or a group of aunts and uncles. Keep reading to find out why!


Zietto is a term of endearment that literally means little uncle.

The pronunciation zietto of is: tsee-EH-toh

Listen to how to pronounce zietto here:

Ciao zietto, quanto è bello rivederti! Come stai?
Hi uncle, it’s so wonderful to see you! How are you?


Prozio means great uncle in Italian. However, many people simply call their great uncle their zio (uncle) if they are fairly close with him.

The pronunciation prozio of is: proh-TSEE-oh

Listen to how to pronounce prozio here:



When addressing your uncle and speaking to him, call him zio. Though the translation into English doesn’t feel very natural, in Italian it sounds normal.

Zio vieni alla mia partita sabato pomeriggio?
Uncle are you coming to my game Saturday afternoon?

In some areas of Italy, zio can also be used to respectfully address an older man or a priest. 


To say my uncle, use mio zio. Usually possessives in Italian also require the direct article (the). For example: il mio amico means my (male) 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. 


mio zio is my uncle
tuo zio is your uncle (informal you) 
suo zio is his/her/your uncle (formal you) 
nostro zio is our uncle
vostro zio your uncle (plural you) 


Il loro zio is their uncle
Il mio zio gentile is my kind uncle


To be specific when speaking to or about a certain uncle, you can use their name as you would in English.

Tanti auguri zio Tommaso!
Happy birthday uncle Tommaso!



Teenagers in Italy have been using the word zio (uncle) and zio (uncle) as a way to say friend.

For example: a 16-year-old may say Ciao zio! Come butta? or Hi uncle! How’s it going? to another 16-year-old male friend, like saying Hey bro! What’s up?

This slang has been taken one step further to refer to any male in (very) casual conversation, not necessarily even someone you know:

Non ci credo, io e lo zio laggiù abbiamo le stesse scarpe.
I can’t believe it, me and that guy have the same shoes.


Bella zio literally means beautiful uncle but it’s really a slang expression. You can use it to show agreement or to show approval for something done right. For example:

A: Ci vediamo al bar dopo scuola?
B: Bella zia. 
A: See you at the bar after school?
B: You got it. 
A: Marco sa quali domande saranno sull’esame.
B: Bella zio, che grande! 
A: Marco knows what questions will be on the exam.
B: Well done, he’s the best!


In Italy, bestemmiare, or to swear by insulting God, is much more offensive than any other kind of cursing. In Italian, you can soften a serious curse by substituting or changing a word to neutralize it, like saying fiddlesticks instead of the f-word, or shoot instead of the s-word in English.

Zio cane! and Porco zio! are both ways of cursing without cursing (I won’t even dare write the original versions). 



The phrase cry uncle or say uncle does not have a direct translation that makes sense in Italian. Instead, you can use the verb arrendersi, which means to surrender, or to give up.

He cried uncle after just two tries.
Si è arreso dopo solo due tentativi. 


Don’t be tempted to translate this saying directly or you’ll have Italians scratching their well-coiffed heads. The British saying Bob’s your uncle means there you go, or you’re all set. The best Italian equivalent is ecco fatto.

Take it out of the oven, swirl on some olive oil, and Bob’s your uncle!
Sfornalo, mettici un pò d’olio ed ecco fatto!


Lo zio d’America literally means the uncle from America, but the phrase means rich uncle, or a rich relative, the idea being that a relative has gone off to America and made their fortune.

Lo Zio d’America is also the name of an Italian television show that ran for two seasons, in 2002 and 2006, with Christian De Sica starring in the first season:


Zia means aunt in Italian. To learn more, read Aunt in Italian.

The pronunciation zia of is: TSEE-ah

Listen to how to pronounce zia here:


There are two ways to say aunts and uncles in Italian.

The first is zie e zii (literally: aunts and uncles).

However, because of how Italian word genders work, the plural masculine word zii (uncles) can be used for a mixed group of aunts and uncles. This is true even if there are 100 aunts and 2 uncles: just one man trumps a feminine group and turns the noun masculine, to zii.

You may want to read more about Relatives in Italian.