Italian Word of the Day: Nonna (grandma)

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! 😉

Giorgio Kienerk – La Nonna, 1889

The word for grandmother in Italian is nonna whereas the plural is nonne.

IPA: /ˈnɔn.na/

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 as little grandma and is often used in a humorous, loving way. My niece often uses it with my mother-in-law when she wants to adopt an affectionate tone with her.

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).

To create the word for great-grandmother, all you have to do is add the little word bis in front of nonna (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?


Useful phrases:

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.


Trivia

Diamante (diamond) is one of the most popular songs by singer-songwriter Zucchero and is a favourite of mine. Diamante was the first name of the musician’s beloved nonna and the song is a tribute to her.

Leave a Comment