Italian Word of the Day: Ninnananna (lullaby)

The word for a child’s lullaby or cradle song in Italian is ninnananna (feminine, plural: ninnananne), also spelt as two separate words: ninna nanna.

/nìn·na nàn·na/

The word is a combination of ninna and nanna, both of which are synonyms for il dormire (sleep). They are generally only appropriate for use with children unless meant in a joking or ironic sense.

Mio figlio adora quando gli canto una ninnananna.

My son loves it when I sing him a lullaby.


The word nanna appears in many expressions such as:

  • fare la nanna = to sleep, to go beddy-byes
  • mettere a nanna = to put to bed
  • mandare a nanna = to send to bed
  • andare a nanna = to go to bed, to go beddy-byes

The verb ninnare, which derives from ninna, means to lull to sleep.

When our son was a neonato (newborn), I found that cantare una ninnananna (singing a lullaby) helped him fall asleep. These days he tends to prefer la musica rock (rock music) such as Zucchero and Pink Floyd!

Mother looking after a sleeping baby
La mamma canta una ninnananna a sua figlia. = The mom sings a lullaby to her daughter.

One of the most famous Italian ninnananne is Stella Stellina which means Star Little Star. If you have a little one of your own, why not try learning the lyrics and singing it to them at nap time! 🙂

Stella stellina
La notte si avvicina
La fiamma traballa
La mucca è nella stalla
La mucca e il vitello
La pecora e l’agnello
La chioccia col pulcino
Ogni uno ha il suo bambino
Ognuno ha la sua mamma
E tutti fan la nanna

Star little star
The night is approaching
The flame dances
The cow is in the stable
The cow and the calf
The sheep and the lamb
The hen with the chick
Each one has his own baby
Everyone has their mom
And everyone goes to sleep

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