Italian Word of the Day: Gente (people)

One way of translating the word people in Italian is gente (feminine, plural: genti). Although it is almost always used in the singular form, the plural le genti can be seen in literature or when referring to a population (e.g. le genti dell’antica Roma = the people of ancient Rome).

It derives from the Latin word gens (family / clan) and is related to the English words genus and gentile.

/gèn·te/

Something important to remember is that unlike the word people in English, gente is a collective noun and always takes a singular verb. For example, the phrase the people are happy would translate as la gente è felice (literally: the people is happy), not la gente sono felici.

Note: A synonym for gente is persone (feminine). Both describe an indeterminate number of people, with the difference being that persone is a plural noun and can also be more specific. For example, you can say quattro persone (four people) but not quattro gente. The singular form of persone is persona (person).

C’è tanta gente per strada.
(Ci sono tante persone per strada.)

There are lots of people on the street.


Crowd Of People Street Walking On Bridge Of Saint Angelo In Rome, Italy
La gente cammina per strada. = People walk along the street.

As in English, gente can be modified by an adjective to denote a type or class of people such as:

  • gente per bene = respectable people
  • gente estranea* = unknown people / strangers
  • brava gente = nice people
  • gente di città = city people
  • brutta gente = bad people

*Note: If you write gente estranea a qualcosa, it means people who are unaware of something. For example gente estranea ai fatti means people who are unaware of the facts.

Dovresti iscriverti a quel club sportivo. Mi dicono che è frequentato da gente per bene.

You should join that sports club. They say that respectable people go there.


In some cases, gente can also translate as family or folks. Saying la mia gente (my people), for example, is essentially the same as saying la mia famiglia (my family).

Yet another synonym is ospiti (guests), as in the case of the phrase avere gente a cena (to have guests over for dinner).

Come il frigo è vuoto? Stai scherzando vero?! Abbiamo gente a cena stasera!

What do you mean the fridge is empty? Are you joking?! We’re having guests over for dinner tonight!


Group of cheerful young friends having dinner and laughing at the table at home
È sempre bello avere gente a cena. = It’s always nice to have guests over for dinner.

When saying hello or goodbye to a group of people, you might hear the expressions Ciao, gente! or Ci vediamo, gente! In this case, gente is being used in an ironic or humorous sense to mean guys or folks.

You may also hear the friendly greeting Ciao bella gente! (Hello beautiful people!). Bella gente can also be used sarcastically when talking about people who in reality are not very nice at all (see the song below).

Finally, the pejorative gentaccia means bad / mean people, whereas the derivative gentaglia means despicable people.


Che bella gente by Simone Cristicchi

The song Che bella gente by songwriter Simone Cristicchi is an accusation against people who are arrogant, always ready to stab you in the back and derive joy from other people’s misfortunes. As explained above, in this case bella gente is a sarcastic way of saying bad people.

Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Ilala ilalà ilalà…

Che bella gente capisce tutto
Sa il motivo ma non il trucco
Scruta dietro persiane vecchie ormai
Ti fa sempre gran domande
Poi ti intaglia come un diamante
Aspetta che tu crolli per poter dire agli altri
“L’avevo detto io”

Bisognerebbe stare tutti zitti
Non dare retta neanche ai tuoi fratelli
Parlare piano piano a bassa voce
Vedi Gesù che l’hanno messo in croce

Embè Embè
Vuoi o non vuoi devi fare così
Io sulla croce ci andrei
Ma per chi, per chi

Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Ilala ilalà ilalà…

Che bella gente capisce tutto
Sa il motivo ma non il trucco
Ha pistole con proiettili di malignità
Bisognerebbe caricarle a salve
E far di gomma tutti quei pugnali
Che se ti giri per un solo istante
Te li ritrovi conficcati alle spalle

Embè Embè
Vuoi o non vuoi devi fare così
Io pugnalato sarei
Ma da chi, da chi
Aspetterò
Che mi darete addosso
Aspetterò
Fermo qui al mio posto canterò…

Per esempio certe volte preferisco i matti
Perché dicono quello che pensano
E non accettano ricatti e compromessi
Non si confondono con gli altri
Nel bene, nel male rimangono se stessi
Tu non accontentarti di restare in superficie
Ma scava nel profondo oltre la radice e le apparenze
Amami per quel che sono veramente
E resterò con te per sempre

Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Che bella gente

Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Ilala ilalà ilalà…

Such nice people they understand everything
They know the reason but not the trick
They scrutinise behind old shutters
They always ask you big questions
Then they carve you like a diamond
They wait for you to collapse to say to the others
“I told you so”

We should all be silent
Ignore even your younger brothers
Speak slowly and with a low voice
Look at Jesus who they put on the cross

So what, so what
You want or you don’t want, you have to do it this way
I would go on the cross
But for whom, for whom

Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Ilala ilalà ilalà…

Such nice people they understand everything
They know the reason but not the trick
They have guns with bullets of malice
We should load them with blanks
And make all those knives rubber
Because if you turn around for just a moment, you’ll find yourself stabbed in the back

So what, so what
You want or you don’t want, you have to do it this way
I would be stabbed
But by whom, by whom
I’ll wait
for you to be hard on me
I’ll wait
Still in my place I’ll sing

For example sometimes I prefer crazy people
Because they say what they think
And they don’t accept blackmail and compromise
They don’t blend in with others
For the good, for the bad they remain themselves
Don’t be satisfied by staying on the surface
But dig deep beyond the root and appearances
Love me for what I really am
And I’ll stay with you forever

Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Ilala ilalà ilalà…
Such nice people