Grandma in Italian: La Nonna!

The mainstay of the Italian family

Grandmother and granddaughter unraveling fresh tagliatelle with knife , Italy
Jupiterimages / Getty Images

Our Italian word of the day is nonna, or la nonna, which, as many of you know, means grandmother. When you are addressing your grandmother, in Italian the word is not abbreviated or made into a nickname as it often is in English—grandma or granny or nana. In Italian nonna is nonna, and that suffices. Va bene così.

La Nonna's Big in Italy

If you think of an Italian nonna as you've seen in movies or perhaps in Italian families themselves—and more so if you are Italian-American and you know from personal experience—what image comes to mind? Generations of recipes passed down through family members and deliciously prepared for Sunday dinners or pranzi. Nonna sitting outside talking with her friends. Countless stories about the way things used to be. Old proverbs, sayings, recipes—things otherwise forgotten. And of course, Italian children screaming for their nonna at the top of their lungs.

Indeed, la nonna plays an essential role in the Italian family structure, often looked to—particularly the maternal grandmother, or nonna materna—for helping raise children and bringing the family together. She is viewed as a bit of a rock—una roccia—and yet the person you run to to dry your tears. La nonna stands for authenticity, trustworthiness, and of course, endless amore and bontà—love and good. Because of that, traditional lore (and now the internet) is full of ricette della nonna (nonna's recipes), rimedi della nonna (nonna's remedies), and even proverbi della nonna (nonna's proverbs). And if you have not had one, the next time you go to Italy you must have some torta della Nonna, a delicacy with pastry cream and pine nuts.

Talking About Our Nonna

  • Mia nonna materna viene da Palermo e mia nonna paterna da Genova. My maternal grandmother comes from Palermo and my paternal grandmother comes from Genova
  • Mia nonna è nata nel 1925. My grandmother was born in 1925.
  • Mia nonna mi ha regalato questo libro. My grandma gifted me this book.
  • Tua nonna è una brava cuoca. Your grandmother is a great cook.
  • Nostra nonna abita a Bergamo. Our grandma lives in Bergamo.
  • Tua nonna come si chiama? What's your grandma's name?
  • Mia nonna si chiama Adalgisa. My grandma's name is Adalgisa.
  • Questa è la casa dov’è nata mia nonna. This is the house where my grandmother was born.
  • Ho ricordi bellissimi con mia nonna. I have beautiful memories with my grandmother.
  • Questa sera arriva mia nonna. My grandmother arrives this evening.
  • Io sono cresciuta nella casa di mia nonna. I grew up in my grandmother's house.
  • Noi siamo stati allevati da nostra nonna. We were brought up by our grandmother.
  • Le nonne sono molto importanti nella famiglia italiana. Grandmothers are very important in the Italian family.
  • "Nonna! Dove sei?" "Grandma! Where are you?"
  • Mia nonna è morta l'anno scorso. Mi manca molto. My grandmother died last year. I miss her a lot.

No Article for Your Own Grandmother

This is a good place to remind you—as you can see from most of the sentences above—that you do not need an article in front of your possessive adjective in front of your nonna: mia nonna or tua nonna, or any other direct family member in the singular (mia madre, mio padre, mio zio, tua sorella). You can click here to review your possessive adjectives. If you are asking where grandma is, you say, dov'è la nonna, or if you are referencing someone else's nonna in third person, you say, la nonna di Marco.

If you are talking about grandmothers in the plural, it's le nonne; le mie nonne—my grandmothers. 

  • Le mie nonne sono molto gentili. My grandmothers are very kind.
  • Le mie nonne non vanno d'accordo. My grandmothers do not get along.

If you want to say grandparents the word is i nonni. For more family-related vocabulary, read How to Talk About Family in Italian

Did You Know?

La Festa dei Nonni or Grandparents Day, is celebrated on October 2, the day the Catholic church celebrates Angels Day. Although it’s not as well known as Ognissanti or L’Epifania, the holiday does have its own flower symbol (the nontiscordardimé, or forget-me-not) and its own song (Ninna Nonna). The purpose of the holiday is to recognize the role of grandparents in our lives (il ruolo dei nonni nella nostra vita) and to encourage the creation of initiatives to support i nonni d'Italia!

Popular Proverb About la Nonna

Quando niente va bene, chiama la Nonna. When nothing is going well, call grandma.

Un saluto alla vostra nonna!!