The name almost all children call their mother (madre) in Italian, no matter their age, is mamma, which translates as mom / mommy in American English or mum / mummy in British English.
Three possible variations are the affectionate diminutives mammi, mami and mammina.
When using a possessive adjective like mia (my), you have the option of keeping or omitting the definite article la that precedes it. By keeping the article, the sentence takes on a more affectionate tone, which is why you’ll often hear children using this variation.
Oggi mia mamma è andata al cinema.
Today my mom went to the cinema.
This phrase communicates a simple fact without any emotional value.
Le voglio bene perché è la mia mamma.
I love her because she is my mom.
This phrase has definite affectionate overtones.
If it is clear that you are talking about your own mom instead of somebody else’s mother, it is possible to simply say la mamma without the possessive adjective. This form is often used when talking to other close family members such as siblings, one’s father or grandparents.
La mamma dice che possiamo uscire stasera.
Mom says we can go out tonight.
When talking about your mom to people you don’t know very well, it is best to use the more formal madre (mother) instead of mamma.
Mother’s Day is known as La Festa della Mamma in Italian and there are many different types of moms who deserve to be celebrated on this day besides one’s birth mother (madre biologica). Let’s take a look at them now!
- madre adottiva / di adozione = adoptive mother
- madre affidataria = foster mother
- madre surrogata = surrogate mother
- matrigna = stepmother
- nonna = grandmother
- bisnonna = great grandmother
- madre single = single mother
- madrina = godmother
- suocera = mother-in-law
- figura materna = mother figure
Earlier on, we briefly mentioned the word mammina as a possible affectionate substitute for mamma but it can also be used to refer to a young mother or a young girl who acts like a mother towards her younger siblings.
Discover ten great quotes and sayings about mothers for Mother’s Day in our dedicated article!
Italian expressions containing ‘mamma’
Literal translation: My mum!
English meaning: Oh my goodness!
Essere attaccato alle gonnelle della mamma
Literal translation: to be attached to one’s mother’s apron strings
English meaning: to be dependant and still in need of one’s mother’s help
Come mamma l’ha fatto
Literal translation: as mother made him
English meaning: to be in one’s birthday suit
La mamma/madre dei cretini è sempre incinta
Literal translation: The mother of idiots is always pregnant
English meaning: There’s one born every minute
Bello / Cocco di mamma
Literal translation: Mum’s sweetheart
English meaning: Mum’s favourite child, it can also be used ironically to describe an adult or a child who is spoiled
Heather Broster is a graduate with honours in linguistics from the University of Western Ontario. She is an aspiring polyglot, proficient in English and Italian, as well as Japanese, Welsh, and French to varying degrees of fluency. Originally from Toronto, Heather has resided in various countries, notably Italy for a period of six years. Her primary focus lies in the fields of language acquisition, education, and bilingual instruction.