When learning a new language, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with everyday terms like family relationships. In this guide, we will delve into the Italian word for “uncle” and explore its pronunciation, usage, and related slang expressions. Let’s discover how to say uncle in Italian like a true native!

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Understanding the Word “Uncle” in Italian

The Italian word for “uncle” is “zio.” This term is used to refer to the brother of someone’s mother or father, or the husband of someone’s aunt or uncle. Let’s take a closer look at how to use “zio” in various contexts.

Addressing Your Uncle

When speaking to your uncle in Italian, you should call him “zio.” For instance:

“Zio, vieni alla mia partita sabato pomeriggio?” – Uncle, are you coming to my game on Saturday afternoon?

In some regions of Italy, “zio” can also be used as a respectful form of address for an older man or even a priest.

Maternal and Paternal Uncles

It’s worth noting that Italians sometimes make a distinction between maternal and paternal uncles. An “uno zio materno” is an uncle on your mother’s side, while an “uno zio paterno” is an uncle on your father’s side.

Possessives with Family Members

When it comes to possessives in Italian, family members are an exception to the rule. To say “my uncle,” you use “mio zio” without the direct article “il.” For example:

“Mio zio gentile” – My kind uncle.

However, if there is an adjective before or after the family member, the article is used. For instance:

“Il mio zio preferito” – My favorite uncle.

Pronunciation and Examples

The pronunciation of “zio” is “TSEE-oh.” Let’s look at some examples of using “zio” in sentences:

  1. “Non c’è nessuno come mio zio.” – There’s no one like my uncle.
  2. “Marco è il mio zio preferito.” – Marco is my favorite uncle.
  3. “Ho due zii e tre zie.” – I have two uncles and three aunts.

Plural Form: “Uncles”

To refer to multiple uncles in Italian, you say “zii.” Despite the unusual double “i,” this is the correct spelling. For example:

“Francesco ha sei zii!” – Francesco has six uncles!

Interestingly, “zii” can also refer to a group of aunts and uncles together, thanks to the masculine plural form. So, even if there are 100 aunts and only 2 uncles, you would still use “zii” to describe the group.

Endearing Term: “Little Uncle”

In Italian, there’s an endearing term for “little uncle” known as “zietto.” It’s used to express affection towards a beloved uncle. For instance:

“Ciao zietto, quanto è bello rivederti! Come stai?” – Hi little uncle, it’s so wonderful to see you! How are you?

Great Uncle: “Prozio” or Simply “Zio”?

The word for “great uncle” in Italian is “prozio.” However, many people commonly refer to their great uncle as simply “zio” if they have a close relationship with him.

“Ho un prozio che vive in America.” – I have a great uncle who lives in America.

Uncle Slang and Expressions

Like any language, Italian has its share of slang and expressions related to “zio.” Here are some interesting ones:

  1. Zio: Teenagers in Italy often use “zio” to address a friend, similar to saying “bro” or “dude” in English.
  2. Bella zio: This expression literally means “beautiful uncle” but is used to show agreement or approval, similar to saying “well done” or “you got it” in English.
  3. Zio cane! / Porco zio!: These are milder ways of cursing without using offensive language. Italians use such expressions to express frustration or disbelief.


Learning how to say “uncle” in Italian is an essential step in mastering the language. Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the word “zio” and its various uses, practice incorporating it into your conversations. Immerse yourself in the language, and soon you’ll be speaking like a true Italian, addressing your “zio” with confidence and ease! Buona fortuna! (Good luck!)


How do you pronounce “zio” in Italian?

The word “zio” in Italian is pronounced as “TSEE-oh.” The “z” is similar to the “ts” sound in English. Combine it with the “ee” sound and end with the “oh” sound to pronounce it correctly. To practice, you can listen to native Italian speakers pronouncing “zio” to get the exact pronunciation.

Yes, there are related words and slang expressions for “uncle” in Italian. Some of them are:

  1. Uno Zio Materno: Refers to an uncle on your mother’s side.
  2. Uno Zio Paterno: Refers to an uncle on your father’s side.
  3. Zii: This is the plural form of “zio,” which means “uncles.”
  4. Zietto: An endearing term for “little uncle,” used to express affection.
  5. Prozio: The Italian word for “great uncle.”

Additionally, teenagers in Italy may use the word “zio” as a slang expression to address a friend, similar to saying “bro” or “dude” in English. They may also use expressions like “bella zio” to show approval or agreement.

What is the difference between “uno zio” and “lo zio” in Italian?

In Italian, “uno zio” and “lo zio” both mean “uncle,” but they are used in different contexts based on grammatical rules.

  1. Uno Zio: “Uno zio” is used to refer to “an uncle” or “one uncle.” It is used when talking about a single, specific uncle. For example: “Ho uno zio simpatico” means “I have a kind uncle.”
  2. Lo Zio: “Lo zio” is used to refer to “the uncle” in a specific context. It is used when talking about a particular uncle that has already been mentioned or is well-known in the conversation. For example: “Lo zio Marco è venuto a trovarci” means “Uncle Marco came to visit us.”

The choice between “uno zio” and “lo zio” depends on whether you are talking about a specific, known uncle or simply referring to any uncle in a general sense.

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