What comes to mind when you imagine an Italian grandmother? For me, it is someone who is an excellent cook, won’t hesitate to tell you what she thinks, and has a deep love for her family. Not every Italian grandmother has these personality traits, of course, but I’ve met enough of them to know that there is a grain of truth to the stereotype! 😉
The standard word for ‘grandmother’ in Italian is nonna whereas the plural is nonne.
Similar to English which has multiple terms for grandmother including ‘grandma’ ‘granny’ ‘gran’ and so on, you may also come across some dialectal variations on nonna depending on where you live. These include nanna (Calabria), granda (Piemonte), nona (Veneto and Emilia-Romagna), ajaja (Sardegna) and ava (Sicilia). In America and Canada, many second and third generation Italians refer to their grandma as nona pronounced with a long ‘o’ sound.
The word nonnina is the diminutive form of nonna. It literally translates to ‘little grandma’ and is often used in a jocular, loving way. My niece often uses it with my mother-in-law when she wants to adopt an affectionate tone with her.
Interestingly you can use the expression della nonna when referring to things that are homemade or traditional such as, for example, homemade natural remedies (rimedi della nonna) or homemade classic tiramisù (tiramisù della nonna).
As for ‘great-grandmother’, all you have to do is add the little word bis in front of nonna to create the word bisnonna.
Finally we have the expression Bello / Bella di nonna! which means “Grandma’s darling!” Grandmothers often address their grandchildren using this phrase as a way of showing love and affection.
Do you have an Italian grandmother? If so, what do you call her?
Stasera vado dalla nonna.
This evening I’m going to my grandma’s house.
La nonna ha riempito il suo nipote di attenzioni.
The grandma made a fuss over her grandson.
Io faccio la nonna a tempo pieno.
I’m a full-time grandmother.
Diamante (diamond) is one of the most popular songs by singer-songwriter Zucchero and is one of my favourites. Diamante was the first name of the musician’s beloved nonna and the song is a tribute to her.