Italian Word of the Day: Cellulare (cell / mobile phone)

In Italian, the portable device we use to make phone calls, browse the Internet, take photos and send messages, is called a cellulare.

It comes from the Latin word cellularis, which in turn derives from the word cellula meaning ‘little chamber’.

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

Cellulare is a masculine noun. The plural is cellulari.

un cellulare
il cellulare

dei cellulari
i cellulari

Some common terms associated with the word cellulare include:

  • numero di cellulare = cell phone number
  • caricatore per cellulare = cell phone charger
  • connessione del cellulare = cell phone connection
  • custodia per cellulare = cell phone case
  • porta cellulare (da auto) = cell phone holder (for the car)

Uffa, la pagina non si sta caricando! Eppure ho tre tacche sul cellulare!

Darn, the page isn’t loading! Yet I’ve got three bars on my cell phone!

Close-up Of Woman's Hand Using Cell Phone
Lei sta sempre attaccata al cellulare! – She’s always on her cell phone!

When talking specifically about smartphones as opposed to other kinds of cellulare phones, Italians tend to use the English term smartphone, pronounced with an Italian accent of course. Most notably, the word-initial sm- becomes zm- in Italian.

Another colloquial term for cellulare you are bound to encounter is telefonino which literally means ‘little telephone’.

Non mi ricordo dove ho lasciato il telefonino!

I can’t remember where I left my cell phone!

Did you know that…?
In Italian, the expression “fare uno squillo” means to call someone, let the phone ring once or a couple of times, and hang up. Italians do this when there is no need to actually speak to the other person – say, for example, if you are meeting a friend at a restaurant and simply want to let them know you’ve arrived.

Ti faccio uno squillo quando arrivo! – Ok, grazie!
I’ll give you a ring (implied: but don’t pick up) when I get there! – Ok, thanks!

Cellulare has other meanings. As a noun, it can refer to a transport van or police van for moving prisoners.

As an adjective, it can refer to cellular, relative to a cell in biology. For example, a nucleo cellulare is a cell nucleus.

Biochemist woman working on microscope for cell illustration on computer screen in chemical laboratory.
Sta esaminando il tessuto cellulare al microscopio. = She’s examining the cell tissue under the microscope.

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