Italian Word of the Day: Sorella (sister)

The Italian word for sister is sorella (plural: sorelle).


Sorella is a feminine noun and takes the following articles.

la sorella

una sorella

le sorelle

delle sorelle

Ho due sorelle – una più grande e una più piccola.

I have two sisters – one older and one younger.

The official terms for older sister and younger sister are sorella maggiore and sorella minore respectively. However, in speech it is much more common to hear sorellina for younger/baby/little sister, which is the diminutive form of sorella. The less common word sorellona (big sister) can only be used by a sibling – otherwise it would be interpreted as an insult (fat sister).

È nata la mia sorellina l’altro giorno!

My baby sister was born the other day!

You can use the word sorella to say that someone, such as a cousin or a friend, is like a sister to you.

Sei come una sorella per me!

You’re like a sister to me!

two sisters walking outdoor hugging

When referring to a half-sister or step-sister, the formal term is sorellastra, whereas adopted sister is sorella adottiva. Bear in mind that, as in English-speaking countries, Italians may not feel the need to emphasise or clarify the blood relationship between themselves and their siblings by using very specific terms such as these. If the relationship is positive, they will often use sorella to describe any kind of sister – half, step, adopted or otherwise.

As in English, sorella can also mean sister or nun in the religious sense. A common synonym is suora.

Le sorelle stanno andando a messa.

The nuns are going to mass.

A sisterhood or sorority is known as a sorellanza in Italian.

Ethics statement: Below you will find affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking the link, we will receive a small commission. To know more about our ethics, you can visit our full disclosure page. Thank you!

Lingopie (affiliate link) is the Netflix of language learning application that uses real TV shows and movies to help you learn a new language. You can choose a show to watch based on your fluency level, and use the interactive subtitles to get instant translations to help you learn quickly.

Are you interested in improving your Italian in a fun and stress-free manner? Then we highly recommend Serena Capilli's short stories in Italian (affiliate link), designed for beginners, advanced beginners, and lower intermediate learners (A1-B1 CEFR). These stories have been optimised for English speakers in search of a fun, laid-back learning experience! Read our full review here.

Leave a Comment