Italian Word of the Day: Mammone (mama’s boy)

For the first year of my son’s life, he had a fairly strong preference for his father, constantly wanting to be held by him and searching for him when he wasn’t around. Now that he’s a little older, he has become much more of a mammone, which is the word for a mama’s boy (or mummy’s boy) in colloquial Italian.

cover image with the word “mammone” and its translation written on a notepad next to a cup of coffee

In order to make it feminine (mama’s girl), simply change the ending from -one to -ona. The plural form of mammone is mammoni whereas, somewhat confusingly, mammone is the feminine plural form of mammona.

il mammone
un mammone

la mammona
una mammona

i mammoni
dei mammoni

le mammone
delle mammone

The word mammone is a combination of the word mamma (mom) and the augmentative masculine suffix -one (big) which is added to the end of nouns. The literal translation would be something along the lines of ‘big mom’ but it always refers to the child, not the mother.

Massimo non è un mammone, a differenza di suo fratellino Simone.

Massimo isn’t a mama’s boy unlike his younger brother Simone.

Lovely moments of motherhood: profile view of curly little boy embracing his mother while sitting on cozy sofa, his bearded father with breakfast tray in hands standing behind
Mio figlio è diventato un po’ mammone – My son has become a bit of a mama’s boy

Directed toward a child, mammone can sound quite sweet and affectionate, but as soon as you use it to describe an adult, it takes on a decisively pejorative flavour, calling to mind the good-for-nothing son who depends on his mollycoddling mother for everything.

Mario è un mammone buono a nulla!

Mario is a good-for-nothing mummy’s boy!

A gatto mammone or gattomammone is a fantasy creature invented to scare children in fairytales. Mammone was also the word attributed to an unidentified species of monkey who, according to past rumours, was particularly ugly.

Finally, the word mammona also has another meaning linked to the Bible. It translates as mammon in English and refers to material wealth or possessions that are viewed as an evil influence. In this sense, the Italian noun can be either masculine or feminine.

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