8 Ways to Say “Friend” in Italian

In English, there are numerous ways to address a friend, right? Well, the same goes for Italy. However, let’s zero in on a few terms – the ones Italians kick off their conversations with friends. It’s all in a friendly spirit, so if you happen to strike up a friendship with an Italian, you can throw in some of these words too.

8 Ways to Say "Friend" in Italian

Is there a universally accepted way to refer to a friend throughout Italy?

Yes and no! While many words are standardised in the Italian vocabulary and used across regions, there are variations that may seem outdated, dialectical, or region-specific.

For instance, the term compare, originally meaning godfather but now commonly used to mean buddy (US) or mate (UK), is more prevalent in the Southern regions. Using it in Milan or Venice might sound somewhat strange.

If you come across vecio mio in Veneto, you’re hearing a regional dialectal form that translates to vecchio mio in Italian, meaning old sport or old friend in English.

With that said, let’s take a look at all the terms that enjoy universal acceptance and usage across Italy:


amico / amico mio

caro / caro mio




vecchio mio



amica / amica mia

cara / cara mia

sorella (not as common)


Let’s be clear right from the start: most of the time, particularly among younger generations like Gen Z, slang is the go-to language among friends. Even older generations tend to stick to local terms that resonate with their cultural background. Nevertheless, no matter where you are, there are some terms that are universally accepted.

1. Amico / Amica

Amico/a is the literal translation for ‘friend‘ and can be used to address any non-relation with whom you have a close relationship, optionally with the addition of caro/a (dear), like caro/a amico/a (dear friend), which adds a touch of politeness. However, this expression is often reserved for emails or letters. An alternative is caro/a mio/a, which conveys a similar meaning but is more heartfelt.

Different people of age and ethnicity eating a vegan dinner. Multiethnic group of friends having fun while sharing a meal in a warm and welcoming house.

2. Fratello / Sorella

This term translates to brother, commonly used in its male form among boys. The female version, sorella (sister), is less common among girls and tends to be more informal.

While fratello is widely used, it does have some dialectical variations, particularly in southern Italy and notably in Naples, where it transforms into fratè or even fra. It is akin to the informal use of bro in English slang. Interestingly, bro itself has found its way into Italian among young guys to address their friends.

Furthermore, in Italy, there’s a recent trend of anglicising many words. However, it’s essential to note that these adaptations aren’t always recognised by the Accademia della Crusca, the primary Italian institution for philology and linguistics. Additionally, these adaptations may not carry the same meanings as they do in English vocabulary.

Low angle shot of a group of sporty young people joining their heads together in a huddle outdoors.

3. Socio / Compare

Socio (literally “affiliate“) and compare (literally “accomplice/godfather“) can be considered somewhat universal terms but are more prevalent in the South. The term socio is somewhat connected to its business connotation of an affiliate, but in this context, it extends to the realm of friendship. On the other hand, compare is a term often used for long-standing friendships, referring to those friends who have shared significant experiences or even business ventures.

Group of friendly young people toasting with cocktails during hangout

4. Vecchio mio

In this case as well, vecchio mio (old mate / old friend) is used more or less nationwide, but it might be a tad more prevalent in the Northern regions of Italy. Here, you’ll encounter dialectical variations such as vèz (found, for instance, in Bologna and Vicenza) and vècio (more common in the North East, like Venice).

young friends at bar giving high five to each other

5. Compagno/a

Compagno/a (mate) in Italian is more closely associated with the concept of a couple – two individuals in a relationship sharing the same living space are referred to as compagni. However, this term is commonly used to denote a friend or a colleague/schoolmate as well. In the past, it had political connotations for those supporting communism waves in Italy. Nevertheless, in contemporary usage, this political meaning has largely faded away.

Group of young friends sitting at festive table drinking alcohol drinks and celebrating holiday together at home

Less common names for a friend in Italian

6. Testina

This term is quite urban-centric, primarily used in Milan and its province, but it has now proliferated across the northern regions of Italy as well. It’s an exclamation directed at a friend or someone familiar in a casual manner, often accompanied by a good-natured sense of reproach. Most commonly, it’s used to summon friends, especially when they’re acting a bit silly or moody.

Slang used among Gen Z

This final section focuses on a handful of terms embraced by the new generations, often leaving the majority of Italians bewildered, at least for the time being. As language evolves over time, the way young individuals communicate undergoes changes, and sometimes, these words even integrate into mainstream vocabulary.

Now, let’s delve into the language you might catch among young individuals from Gen Z during this period in Italy.

7. Amo noi

This is a compound term stemming from amore‘ (love) and noi‘ (us). Among young people, it’s employed to denote a group of friends. When using this term, they express a love for those individuals who belong to the same group, emphasising a strong sense of belonging among them.

8. Bae

Another English word is bae, an acronym for “Before Anyone Else.” Coined by the new generations, it’s used to specify the significance of the person they’re addressing with this term. Essentially, for them, this person comes before anyone else in their lives.

It’s evident that the English language, influenced by social media, the music industry, and globalisation, is moulding the Italian language. Interestingly, unlike in Spain, for example, where imported words undergo transformation to create a new term in Spanish, in Italy, these words enter the lexicon unchanged but with a slight shift in their original English meaning.

Now that you’re equipped to address a friend in Italy in the manner you prefer, why not give these expressions a try!

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