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RELATIVES in Italian

Relatives are important in Italy, where the family has such a strong pull and gives structure to most of cultural life.

Let’s dive in and learn all about Italian words for relatives and family members. Look out for the word parenti, which despite appearances is actually the Italian word for relatives! Find out how to pronounce parenti, how to use it, and how to figure out whether it refers to male relatives, female relatives, or both. Discover the words for different types of close relatives in Italian, distant relatives, in-laws, and how to pronounce them.

I’ve included plenty of examples to help you out!


Parenti means relatives in Italian.

Le parenti means the female relatives. I parenti has two possible meanings: it can refer to a group of all male relatives, or a group of male and female relatives. Keep reading to find out why!

I parenti di Silvia abitano tutti nello stesso piccolo paese.
Silvia’s relatives all live in the same small town.

Io e Caterina siamo parenti.
Caterina and I are relatives. 

The pronunciation of i parenti and le parenti is ee pah-REHN-tee, leh pah-REHN-tee

Listen to how to pronounce i parenti and le parenti here: 


Parente means relative in Italian. Parenti (relatives) is the plural of parente. 

Un parente means a male relative, as well as a relative in general if their gender isn’t specified. Una parente means a female relative.

Sara è una parente del Primo Ministro.
Sara is a relative of the Prime Minister.

Il parente means the male relative, and the relative in general. La parente means the female relative.

Il parente del ferito ha chiamato l’ambulanza.
The injured person’s relative called the ambulance.

The pronunciation of un parente, una parente, il parente, and la parente is oon pah-REHN-teh, OO-nah pah-REHN-teh, eel pah-REHN-teh, lah pah-REHN-teh.

Listen to how to pronounce un parente, una parente, il parente, and la parente here: 


As we noted before, parenti means male relatives in Italian. But parenti also means female relatives. And it also means a group of male and female relatives

In English, you just say the relatives– nouns don’t have genders. But in Italian, every noun has a gender, which affects corresponding adjectives and other grammar.

So to figure out what’s what, pay attention to the article and/or possessive pronoun in front of parenti. Adjectives will usually help clue you in too. Le parenti are the female relatives, and le mie parenti are my female relatives and le parenti anziane are the elderly female relatives

Because of how Italian word genders work, the plural masculine i parenti (the male relatives) can be used for a mixed group of male and female relatives. This is true even if there are 100 female and 2 male relatives: just one man trumps a feminine group and turns the noun masculine, to i parenti. So the Italian word for the relatives in general is i parenti

If you want to avoid any mixup, and specify that you’re talking about a group of all male relatives, say i parenti maschi

Le mie parenti sono tutte molto simpatiche, mentre i miei parenti maschi sono abbastanza noiosi.
My female relatives are all very nice, while my male relatives are rather boring.

Attenzione! Watch out for sneaky false friends in Italian! Parenti doesn’t mean parents, even though the two words are almost identical. The word for parents in Italian is genitori. If you really want to sound Italian, say i miei (mine) to say my parents, as in: Questo weekend i miei vanno a Milano. This weekend my parents are going to Milan.


Parenti, or relatives, are of course members of the family. Famiglia is the Italian word for family, and a large part of Italian cultural life. Read Family in Italian to learn important family words for talking about la famiglia.


In Italian, the immediate family, or close relatives, are called i parenti stretti, which literally means the tight relatives. Italians also say i parenti prossimi, which literally means the next relatives.

Abbiamo festeggiato il Natale solo con i parenti stretti, e eravamo comunque in 12!
We celebrated Christmas just with close relatives, and even then there were 12 of us!

The pronunciation of i parenti stretti is: ee pah-REHN-tee STREHT-tee

Listen to how to pronounce i parenti stretti here:

dadpapà, babbopah-PAH, BAH-bboh

In Italian, distant relatives are i lontani parenti.

Marco ha dei lontani parenti che gestiscono la pasticceria qui in paese.
Marco has some distant relatives who run the pastry shop here in town.

The pronunciation of i lontani parenti is: ee  lohn-TAH-nee pah-REHN-tee

Listen to how to pronounce i lontani parenti here:

Be careful where you place the adjective: i lontani parenti are distant relatives, but i parenti lontani are relatives that are located far away.


Italians call their in-laws, or relatives by marriage, i parenti acquisti, which literally means the acquired relatives.

The pronunciation of i parenti acquisiti is: ee pah-REHN-tee ah-kwee-ZEE-tee.

Unlike English, Italian has a whole new set of words for the in-laws. For example, the Italian word for sister is sorella, but the Italian word for sister-in-law is cognata. Here they are:

parents-in-lawsuoceri, suoceresoo-OH-cheh-ree, soo-OH-cheh-reh


Family is the cornerstone of Italian society, but that doesn’t mean everything is always perfect and harmonious. There is an Italian expression that aptly captures the difficult relationship we sometimes have with relatives, and it even rhymes! Parenti serpenti literally means snake relatives, but a good translation that captures its meaning is poisonous relatives: relatives who you love, and love to hate at the same time.

For more about how to talk about la famiglia, read Family in Italian.