Italian Word of the Day: Sorriso (smile)

The word for smile in Italian is sorriso (masculine, plural: sorrisi). It derives from the verb sorridere (to smile) which in turn comes from the Latin subridere, the combination of sub (under) and ridere (to laugh).

IPA: /sor·rì·so/

Another way to say to smile besides sorridere is fare un sorriso – literally to make a smile. The expression abbozzare un sorriso (lit: to sketch a smile) means to give a faint smile or a hint of a smile.

Che bel sorriso che hai!

What a beautiful smile you have!


There are many different kinds of smiles including:

  • un grande / ampio sorriso = a big smile, a grin
  • un sorriso allegro = a cheerful smile
  • un sorriso buono = a sweet smile
  • un sorriso forzato = a forced smile
  • un sorriso falso = a false smile

If you give someone un sorriso a trentadue denti (lit: a smile with thirty two teeth), you can probably expect a big toothy grin in return.

young woman smiling
Lei mi ha fatto un sorriso a trentadue denti. = She gave me a big grin.

If someone has always a smile on his or her face, or is always joyful, you can say:

Laura ha sempre il sorriso sulle labbra.

Laura always has a smile on her face (lit. on her lips).


The diminutive sorrisetto (and the less common sorrisino) is used to describe smiles that are forced or not particularly benevolent such as un sorrisetto ironico (an ironic smile) or un sorrisetto sarcastico (a sarcastic smile).

Sorriso may also be used in a figurative sense to describe a person’s cheerful temperament. If you say, for example, that someone ha un sorriso per tutti (lit: he has a smile for everyone), the implication is that they are always friendly and affable with other people.

You can also use it to describe a sense of calm, beauty and serenity, such as for example il sorriso della natura (nature’s smile) or il sorriso della primavera (spring’s smile).

At the end of texts and emails, many people like to include a faccina sorridente (smiley face) to give the message a friendly tone. 😀

Faccine sorridenti = Smiley faces

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