Home Language HacksItalian 3 Ways to Say Happy Birthday in Italian (+ PDF Cheat-Sheet)

3 Ways to Say Happy Birthday in Italian (+ PDF Cheat-Sheet)

Want to wish someone a happy birthday? Here are 3 simple phrases to use PLUS the lyrics to sing the happy birthday song in Italian

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Italians love to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, festivities and other special events. But it can be hard to know what expressions of well-wishes to say and when to say them. If you’re not careful, you could end up saying the wrong thing! More on that later.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the most used and useful Italian expressions and traditions related to birthdays! So the next time an Italian friend’s compleanno (birthday) comes up, you’ll be able to let them know you’re thinking about them and send your birthday wishes in Italian.

We’ll look at how to wish someone a happy birthday in Italian both in person and in a card or text message plus how Italians actually celebrate plus the one strange Italian birthday tradition you should know. 

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How do you say Happy Birthday in Italian?

There are a few ways you can wish somebody a happy birthday in Italian, from the more traditional phrases to the more creative and colloquial ones. Let’s start with the most common!

1. The most common way to say Happy Birthday in Italian: Buon Compleanno

Happy birthday in Italian - Buon compleanno written on cake

“Buon compleanno” (pronounced bwon com-pleh-ahn-noh) is certainly the most common way to say happy birthday in Italian.

Note how the adjective “buono” generally means “good” but here it takes the meaning of “happy”. It is super common to find “buono” in fixed phrases expressing some kind of wish.

You’re probably already familiar with the expressions “Buon Natale” (Merry Christmas) or “Buon Anno” (Happy New Year). Here are other expressions of well-wishes that use “buono”:

  • Buona giornata / serata (Have a good day / evening!)
  • Buon viaggio (Have a good trip!)
  • Buona domenica (Happy Sunday!)
  • Buon divertimento (Have fun!)
  • Buon onomastico (Nappy name day!)
  • Buon anniversario (Happy anniversary!)

Back to our “buon compleanno”, you can use this expression on its own or you can add terms of endearment and address it to someone specific mentioning your relationship to them, such as:

  • Buon compleanno, caro / cara! – Happy birthday, dear (male / female)!
  • Buon compleanno, amico mio / amica mia! – Happy birthday, my friend (male / female)!
  • Buon compleanno, bella! – Happy birthday, beautiful (for women)!
  • Buon compleanno, tesoro! – Happy birthday, sweetheart!
  • Buon compleanno, sorellina! – Happy birthday, little sister!
  • Buon compleanno, zio! – Happy birthday, uncle!

Or you can make this wish more personal by mentioning the age somebody is turning, especially if it’s an important milestone worth celebrating, such as:

  • Buon diciottesimo compleanno! – Happy 18th birthday!
  • Buon trentesimo compleanno! – Happy 30th birthday!
  • Buon cinquantesimo compleanno! – Happy 50th birthday!

How to say Happy Birthday in Italian - Buon compleanno

2. How to say Happy Birthday in Italian using Auguri!

Another common way to wish someone a happy birthday in Italian is by using the word “auguri” (pronounced: ah-oo-goo-ree), which literally means “wishes”.

Very often people use the expression “tanti auguri” (many wishes) to say “happy birthday” in a slightly more emphatic way or they combine it with “buon compleanno”, to form:

  • Tanti auguri di buon compleanno! Many wishes for your birthday!
  • Tantissimi auguri! – Lots of best wishes!

Use the following phrases if you want to let them know your wishes come from your heart:

  • Auguri di cuore! Heartfelt wishes!
  • Tanti auguri dal profondo del cuore! – Happy birthday from the bottom of my heart!

Another popular, informal expression is “auguroni”, literally “big wishes”, which is formed by adding the augmentative suffix -oni onto the end of “auguri”.

The phrase “(tanti) auguri” is a bit more versatile than “buon compleanno”; in fact, it is not only used on birthdays but also on other special occasions, such as festivities, holidays, anniversaries, or for having a baby, getting a promotion, graduating. Here are some examples:

  • Tanti auguri per la festa della mamma! – Happy Mother’s Day!
  • Tanti auguri di buona Pasqua! – Happy Easter!
  • Tanti auguri per il tuo traguardo! – Congratulations on your achievement!
  • Avete appena avuto un bambino? Auguri! – You just had a baby? Congratulations!

3. Say Cento di questi giorni!

If you’re thinking of writing a birthday card in Italian, there are other expressions you can use besides the traditional “auguri” and “buon compleanno”. One of these is:

  • Cento di questi giorni! – Many happy returns! / Here’s to many more!

This literally means “A hundred of these days”, meaning you wish for that person to have one hundred more birthdays. This expression is not as popular among younger generations though, as it sounds a bit old fashioned.

3 Ways to say Happy Birthday in Italian

Other common ways to wish someone a happy birthday in Italian

Another option is to use the verb “augurare”, literally, “to wish”. Here are a few examples you may find inspiring when writing a birthday card in Italian:

  • Ti auguro una giornata piena di gioia e spensieratezza. – I wish you a day full of joy and light-heartedness.
  • Ti auguro di passare una splendida giornata in compagnia dei tuoi cari. – I wish you a wonderful day in the company of your loved ones.
  • Per il tuo compleanno ti auguro il meglio. For your birthday, I wish you all the best.
  • Spero che tutti I tuoi desideri si avverino. I hope all your wishes come true.

When to wish someone a happy birthday in Italy

Italians are quite superstitious: they worry when they see a black cat crossing the street, they touch iron (not wood) to ward off evil spirits and they like to wear red and eat lentils on New Year’s Eve to attract good luck and money for the coming year (learn about these and more Italian superstitions here). If you are wondering: what does all this have to do with birthdays? Well, you should know that Italians have certain “rules” about when to wish someone a happy birthday too.

You can start sending wishes to the birthday boy or girl starting from midnight on their birthday, and it is even acceptable to send them late saying:

  • Tanti auguri in ritardo! Happy belated birthday!

When NOT to wish someone a happy birthday

One thing that you should never do is wish someone a happy birthday before the actual birthday. Seriously, not, not even the day before! Not only is saying happy birthday in advance considered rude but it is also believed to bring bad luck. 

How to ask somebody about their age in Italian

If you want to talk about your age and the day you were born and ask others about them, there are a few questions and expressions you can use.

The general way to ask someone about their age is:

  • Quanti anni hai? – How old are you? (Lit. “how many years do you have?”)

To which the person will respond:

  • Ho 25 anni. I’m 25 years old. (Lit. “I have 25 years.”)

Note how in Italian we don’t say that we are X years old, but rather we “have” X years. On the actual birthday, you can ask the birthday boy or girl:

  • Quanti anni compi oggi?How old are you today? (Lit. “How old do you turn today?”)

Here, the verb “compiere” means “to turn a certain age”. The answer to this question will be:

  • Compio 30 anni. I am turning 30.

Here are a few more questions you can ask to learn about someone’s date of birth and appropriate answers:

  • Quando sei nato / nata? – When were you born (male / female)? (informal)
  • Quando è nato / nata? – When were you born (male / female)? (formal)
  • Sono nato / nata il 14 agosto 1980. – I was born (male / female) on August 14, 1980.

Di che anno sei / è? – In which year were you (informal / formal) born? (Lit. “what year are you of?”)

  • Sono del novantadue. I was born in 1992. (Lit. “I’m of ninety-two.”)
  • Quando è il tuo / suo compleanno? When is your (informal / formal) birthday?
  • Il 13 ottobre. – On October 13.

Complimenting the birthday person

If you want to compliment someone on how good they look for their age or say they look younger than they’re actually are, here is what you can say:

  • Complimenti, sembri / sembra più giovane! – Congratulations, you (informal / formal) look younger!
  • Complimenti, li porti / porta bene! – Congratulations, you (informal / formal) look pretty good (Lit. “you carry them well!”)
  • Complimenti, non li dimostri / dimostra! – Congratulations, you (informal / formal) don’t look it! (Lit. “you don’t show them!”)

You could also say:

  • Sembri più vecchio / vecchia. You look older (male / female)

But… at your own risk! 😉

How to sing the happy birthday song in Italian

Curious to learn the lyrics for the happy birthday song in Italian? Using the same melody as the English version the lyrics change to:

Tanti auguri a te (Many wishes to you)
Tanti auguri a te (Many wishes to you)
Tanti auguri a [insert name] (Many wishes to X)
Tanti auguri a te! (Many wishes to you)

Happy Birthday in Italian - Lyrics to Happy Birthday song in ItalianListen to the song in Italian below.

3 Italian birthday traditions you should know

1. The cake and the celebrations

Birthdays around the world are celebrated in different ways. But one thing all birthdays have in common is, with no doubt, the cake. In Italy, some people choose to go out with their friends or family for drinks or to eat out at a nice restaurant (which normally prepares the cake for the occasion). Others simply choose to stay at home and cook and bake their own cake or order it from their favorite pasticceria (patisserie).

One thing that might surprise you is that in Italy it is tradition that the birthday boy or girl pays for food and drinks and takes care of the cake, not the guests!

Just like in many other cultures, the birthday boy/girl has to blow out the candles and make a wish (but you need to keep it to yourself, so as not to jinx it!). 

2. Giving presents

When guests are invited to a birthday party in Italy, they normally bring un regalo, a present. Another birthday tradition in Italy is to open presents in front of everyone (and not in private, as it would be considered rude).

It is also common practice for the guest to write a birthday card that goes with the present, with a few words to wish the birthday boy or girl a happy birthday (or something more personal if it’s a significant friendship).

It’s not unusual to ask your Italian friends what gift they would like to receive for their birthday. Here are some examples to use:

  • Che regalo vuoi? – What present do you want?
  • Cosa vuoi per il tuo compleanno? – What do you want for your birthday?

This way you’re sure to give them something significant that they really need or want.

3. The strange ear-pulling traditions

Finally, another common Italian tradition is the one of tirare le orecchie, literally, ear-pulling, which involves gently pulling the earlobe as many times as the number of years one turns, while at the same time counting out loud until reaching the person’s age.

It should be mentioned that this is done especially with children or very close family members and friends (not with mere acquaintances) and that people just stop doing that when the years… become too many! 

Celebrating your Name Day (Saint Day)

Celebrate your name day - Statue of archangel Saint Michael in Rome

Statue of archangel Saint Michael in Rome

Another day on the Italian calendar that’s just as important to celebrate as your birthday is your Name Day, also known as Saint’s Day.  A Name Day is a Catholic holiday, dating back to the Middle Ages. On this day you celebrate your baptismal name, that is, the saint of the day in the liturgical calendar. This is typically a biblical character or another saint. For example, my name is Michele so my onomastico (Name Day) is celebrated on September 29th the day of the archangel Saint Michael.

For some Italians, celebrating your Name Day is just as important as your birthday and you’ll even receive gifts. In Italy, especially in the south, there is a strong religious faith, to the point that a baby’s name is often chosen to thank (and ingratiate) a particular saint or to honour the saint whose name appeared on the calendar on the day of his/her birth.

In Italian families, it’s not unusual to find several relatives with the same name (often after the grandparents). A Name Day is an occasion to get together with family and celebrate. A cake is usually prepared for the event and the person celebrating receives Happy Name Day wishes such as:

  • Buon onomastico! – Happy Name Day!
  • (Tanti) auguri! – (Many/Best) wishes!

Italian birthday vocabulary

Here is some useful birthday vocabulary that might come in handy when talking about birthdays in Italian:

Italian word English translation
Il compleanno Birthday
La torta di compleanno Birthday cake
Le candeline Candles
La festa di compleanno Birthday party
Il regalo di compleanno Birthday present / gift
Il biglietto di auguri Birthday card
Il festeggiato / La festeggiata Birthday boy / girl
Gli invitati Guests
I palloncini Balloons
Esprimere un desiderio To make a wish
Spegnere le candeline To blow out candles
Tirare le orecchie Ear-pulling
Fare un brindisi / Brindare To make a toast
Il brindisi di compleanno Birthday toast
Fare gli auguri (a qualcuno) To wish (someone) a happy birthday
Gli auguri di buon compleanno Birthday wishes
Invecchiare To get old, to grow old
Gli anni Years

Keep practising!
How to Say 'Happy Birthday' in Italian Cheat-Sheet! (Free PDF Download)

Don't let the learning stop here. Download your free PDF guide on how to say happy birthday in Italian. Includes pronunciation and how to sing the happy birthday song. Impariamo insieme! (Let's learn together!)

I promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

I hope you enjoyed learning about Italian birthday traditions while also picking up some useful phrases yu can use to wish your Italian friend(s) a happy birthday! Since an essential part of celebrating birthdays is making a toast, make sure you brush up on how to say cheers in Italian. Tanti auguri e… divertitevi! (Many wishes and have a great time)!

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