Sopravvissuto, the word for survivor in Italian, comes from the verb sopravvivere meaning to survive. It is formed of two parts: sopra (above) and vissuto (past participle of vivere ‘to live’).
If you are talking about a woman instead of a man, the masculine sopravvissuto becomes the feminine sopravvissuta. Their respective plurals are sopravvissuti and sopravvissute.
As in English, sopravvissuto can refer to someone who remains alive after a tragic event, or one of the last remaining members of a group or family.
Carlo è l’unico sopravvissuto della famiglia.
Carlo is the only survivor of the family.
It cannot, however, be used figuratively to denote someone who copes well with difficulties in their life or has overcome a difficult experience. In that case, you’d use the word tosto/a (determined) or the pronominal verb farcela (to make it, to succeed at doing something).
Non ti preoccupare, ce la farà. Lei è una tosta!
Don’t worry, she’ll make it. She’s a survivor!
When used as an adjective, sopravvissuto can also translate as surviving. For example, i passeggeri sopravvissuti is how you would say the surviving passengers in Italian. Another possible translation is outdated or antiquated when talking about a person whose habits, principles or beliefs are out of touch with modern day ideologies.
Survivor’s guilt, known as il sindrome del sopravvissuto in Italian, is a mental condition that occurs when a person feels guilty about surviving a traumatic event when others did not.
A close synonym of sopravvissuto is superstite. It too can be either a noun (un superstite = a survivor) or an adjective (un passeggero superstite = a surviving passenger).