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Italian Genealogical Word List


Even if you don't speak or read Italian, you can still make sense of most Italian genealogical documents with the understanding of some key words in Italian. Common genealogy terms, including record types, events, dates and relationships are listed here, along with Italian words with similar meanings (i.e. words commonly used in Italy to indicate marriage, including marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock and unite).

Italian Basics:

Italian, a romance language derived from Latin, is spoken in Italy. It is also used in some areas of Switzerland and Yugoslavia. Major dialects of Italian include Sicilian, Neapolitan, Romanesque and Venetian.

Italian Language Essentials:

The most important thing to look for in Italian words is the root, as it will give you the basic meaning of the word. The same word may be found with multiple endings, depending on the way the word is used in the sentence. Endings can tell you if a word is masculine or feminine, singular or plural, or whether an event is in the past, present or future.
  • Masculine or feminine? In Italian all nouns have gender, whether they refer to people or things - in other words, they are designated as masculine or feminine. Generally, though not always, nouns ending in -a are feminine, and nouns ending in -o are masculine. For example, chiesa (church) is a feminine word, and cimitero (cemetery) is masculine. Nouns ending in -e may be either masculine or feminine, such as padre (father) and madre (mother).

  • Singular or plural? Most plural nouns in Italian are formed by changing the ending vowel. Nouns ending in -o or -e form their plural by changing the last letter to -i. Nouns ending in -a form their plural by changing the -a to -e.

Common Italian Words Found in Genealogy Documents:

Record Types
Birth Certificate - atto di nascita, certificato di nascita
Census - censimento, stato delle anime (censuses), stato d'anima (parish census)
Church Records - registri parrocchiali (parish registers)
Civil Register - stato civile
Death Certificate - certificato di morte
Family Register - stato di famiglia
Marriage Record - acta de matrimonio (marriage certificate), registri matrimoniali (marriage records)
Military - militareFamily Events
Baptism -battesimo, battezzare (to baptize, christen)
Birth - nascita; nata (born)
Burial - sepolture, seppellimento, sepolto/a (buried)
Confirmation - cresima
Death - morte, morire, decesso (deceased), morì (died)
Divorce - divorziata (female), divorziato (male)
Marriage - matrimonio, maritato, coniugato, sposato, to marry (sposare)
Marriage (banns) - pubblicazioni, notificazioni

Ancestor - antenato, avo, predecessore
Aunt - zia, la zia
Brother - fratello
Brother-in-law - cognato
Child - fanciullo, neonato (male), naonata (female), infante, banbino, figli (children)
Cousin - cugino (male), cugina (female), cugino germano cui (first cousin)
Daughter - figlia
Daughter-in-law - nuora
Descendant - rampolla
Father - padre, papa, babbo
Grandchild - nipote, nipotino(male), nipotina (female)
Grandfather - nonno, avopaterno
Grandmother - nonna, avomaterna
Great-grandchild - pronipote
Great-grandfather - bisnonno
Great-grandmother - bisnonna
Husband - marito, sposo
Mother - madre, mamma
Niece / Nephew - nipote
Orphan, Foundling - orfana (f), orfano (m), trovatella (f), trovatello (m)
Parents - genitori
Relatives - parenti
Sister - sorella
Sister-in-law - cognata
Son - figlio, figlioetto, ragazzo
Son-in-law - genero
Uncle - zio
Wife - moglie, sposa

* In official Italian genealogical records, dates are generally written out, with the year first, followed by the month, the day, and the time of the event.

Day - giorno, giornata
Month - mese
Year - anno
Morning - mattina, mattino, mattinata
Night - notte, sera (evening)
January - gennaio
February - febbraio
March - marzo
April - aprile
May - maggio
June - giugno
July - luglio
August - agosto
September - settembre
October - ottobre
November - novembre
December - dicembre

Other Common Italian Genealogical Terms
Archives - archivi
Catholic church - chiesa cattolico
Cemetery (graveyard) - cimitero
Genealogy - genealogia
Index - indice
Name, given - nome di battesimo
Name, surname (family name) - cognome
Name, maiden - nome da nubile
Parish - parrocchia
Town - comune
Village - frazione
Vital Records Office - ufficio dello stato civile
Will / Testament - testamento

For more common genealogy terms in Italian, along with their English translations, see Italian Genealogical Word List at FamilySearch.com.

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