“Buon compleanno” and “tanti auguri” are both ways to wish someone Happy Birthday in Italian. See how to personalise happy birthday in Italian with terms of endearment, plus funny Italian birthday traditions!
Why take our word for it? We’re Paolo (Italian born and raised) and Brandy (American born and raised). Paolo has celebrated his birthdays in Italy for over thirty years before moving to New York City where we met, fell in love, and married. Since then, we’ve been traveling across Italy for over a decade.
After becoming dual Italian American citizens we moved to Italy to live out our early retirement dreams. Now, we travel to Italy’s most popular destinations and explore hidden gems full-time from our home base in the Italian Alps.
Thus, our list of ways to wish someone a happy birthday in Italian are ways that we personally use to wish a Happy Birthday to our friends and family in Italy.
Table of Contents
- Happy Birthday in Italian
- Different Ways to Wish an Italian Happy Birthday
- How to Wish a Friend Happy Birthday in Italian
- Terms of Endearment in Italian
- How to Sing Happy Birthday in Italian
- Italian Birthday Traditions
Happy Birthday in Italian
Although “felice compleanno” is the most direct translation of “happy birthday” Italians say “tanti auguri” or “buon compleanno” to wish each other happy birthday.
Naturally using too many words can be intimidating for anyone new to the Italian language. In this case simply saying “auguri” is a perfectly acceptable way to wish someone happy birthday in Italian.
Perhaps most importantly “auguri” is a very useful word in Italian. You can say “auguri” to share birthday wishes and in a similar fashion perfect for other festive occasions like anniversaries, births, and graduations.
Different Ways to Wish an Italian a Happy Birthday
In order to add emphasis for friends to a birthday wish Italians use the word “tanti” (many). So, instead of “auguri” say “tanti auguri!”
Meanwhile, use the absolute superlatives “tantissimi” meaning ‘very’, ‘extremely’, ‘really’, or ‘the most’ to add even more feeling. To illustrate “tantissimi auguri!”
Both phrases are more emphatic, yet still short and sweet ways to wish someone happy birthday in Italian.
The same rules apply for adding emphasis to other ways to wish someone a happy birthday in Italian. For example “Auguri di buon compleanno” can be amended to “Tanti auguri di buon compleanno!”
Likewise using terms of endearment is an additional way to make a birthday wish more personal. For instance the word “cara” means dear in Italian. Therefore, “Buon compleanno cara!” means Happy birthday, dear (feminine).
Keep in mind Italian is a romance language. Consequently terms of endearment are either masculine (words ending in an ‘o’) or feminine (words ending in an ‘a’).
With those primers, you can now use the list below to mix and match your own birthday wishes in Italian.
How to Wish a Friend Happy Birthday in Italian
Each of the phrases listed below are interchangeable when it comes to wishing someone a “Happy Birthday” in Italian. The notes included about sentiment are suggestions to help guide you to the most fitting way to express birthday wishes.
- Buon compleanno [Happy Birthday]
- Buon compleanno (friends name) [Happy birthday with your friends name]
- Buon compleanno amico mio (masculine friend) / Buon compleanno amica mia (feminine friend) [Happy birthday my friend]
- Tanti auguri di buon compleanno! [Many wishes of/for a happy birthday]
- Auguri! [Congratulations/wishes]
- Auguroni! [Best wishes informal]
- Tanti auguri! [Many congratulations/wishes]
- Tanti auguri amico mio (masculine friend) / Tanti auguri amica mia (feminine friend) [Many congratulations/wishes my friend]
- Tantissimi auguri! [Very many congratulations/wishes]
- Cento di questi giorni [A 100 of these days which is a little bit like many returns of this day]
- Tanti auguri in ritardo [Happy belated birthday]
- Ti auguro un felice compleanno [I wish you a happy birthday informal reflexive]
Terms of Endearment in Italian
In general Italians are very warm, friendly, and affectionate with those they hold dear. What’s more Italians will also use terms of endearment to express warmth and friendliness to strangers or casual acquaintance. For example our town butcher calls me cara (dear) which always makes me smile. To add warmth to a birthday wish for an Italian consider using one of the following terms of endearment.
- Caro (masculine) Cara (feminine) [Dear]
- Piccolo/piccola [Little one, usually used with someone younger or a romantic partner]
- Stella/stellina [Star]
- Gioia [Joy]
- Topo/topa [Mouse, usually reserved for children] This is what my mother-in-law often calls us.
- Topolino/topolina [Little mouse, again usually reserved for young children]
- Cucciolo/cucciola [Puppy or cub used with children or a romantic partner]
- Tesoro/tesora [Directly translates to treasure but is the equivalent of darling]
- Carino/carina [Cute]
- Bello/bella [Beautiful]
- Bellissimo/bellissima [Gorgeous]
- Amore [Romantic love]
- Cuore Mio [My heart]
- Amore della mia vita [Love of my life]
- Anima Gemella [Literally means twin soul or soulmate]
- Innamorato/innamorata [Lover, but be careful with this one as it implies intimacy]
How to Sing Happy Birthday in Italian
If you find yourself at a birthday part in Italy and a birthday cake with candles makes its way into the room, get ready to sing Happy Birthday in Italian.
There are two versions of the Italian Birthday son. One uses Tanti Auguri and one Buon Compleanno. If you know the American Happy Birthday song, you basically already know the Italian version as they share melodies. The Italian words are as follows.
Tanti auguri a te, tangi auguri a te, tanti auguri a (name), tanti auguri a te!
Finally, the Italian Birthday song with buon compleanno.
Buon compleanno a te, buon compleanno a te, buon compleanno a (name), buon compleanno a te!
Next as my gift, a video of a cartoon hippo singing Happy Birthday in Italian! Trust me, after this you won’t soon forgot how to sing Happy Birthday in Italian.
Italian Birthday Traditions
Lastly we have the fun part. Italian birthday traditions. Italians celebrate their birthdays much the same as Americans do. There are however a few quirky differences between Italian and American birthday traditions starting with ear pulling.
Italians Pull Earlobes on Birthdays for Luck
In America we have a tradition of birthday spankings. One for each year with an extra spank as “one to grow on”. In contrast, Italians pull each others earlobes on their birthdays. One pull for each year of the persons age for good luck.
Italians Celebrate La Maggioretà on Their 18th Birthday
Since 1975 Italians have been celebrating La Maggiore Età on their 18th birthdays. Legally this is when the law lowered the age of majority in Italy from 21 to 18 years of age. In other words the 18th birthday is the biggest celebration for Italians because they are legally considered adults. At 18 Italians can vote, drive, and assume full legal control over themselves from their parents. So while Americans have Sweet 16 and Raging 21st Birthdays, Italians throw their celebratory bashes at 18. After that every 10th birthday is considered “the big one” for Italians. 40th, 50th, 60th and so on.
Italian Birthday Parties
Similar to American Birthday parties, Italian Birthday parties vary according to individual taste.
Birthday parties for Italian Children usually include friends/family, presents and cake with candles that are blown out over wishes.
As adults Italians often move their birthday celebrations with friends to restaurants. Family birthdays are most often celebrated at home with Moms making a festive fuss over their kids.
There are as many different ways to wish someone happy birthday in Italian as there are in English. Using terms of endearment and combining the birthday phrases above is a great way to personalise birthday wishes. What matters here in Italy is not surprisingly to fill birthdays with love and traditions that make us smile every year.
How do you celebrate your birthday traditionally? Let me know in the comments below!