Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Titles in Italian

The usage of titles ("mister," "doctor", "professor," and so on) differs quite a lot from English to Italian. Italians use titles more and are often more formal. In the following, I will not use quote marks or italics as a matter of convenience (mine).

  • Doctor is dottore, mister is signore, professor is professore. Note that when they are used as a title i.e. in front of a name, they are shortened to dottor, signor and professor. Examples: Il signor Rossi, il dottor Bruni. The title is not capitalized. Physicians who are also academics should be called professore.

  • Missus is signora, miss is signorina. There is no Ms., signora is used instead. Signora is for married women and signorina is for the unmarried, although when a single woman is no longer young, signora is used. When the person is a stranger and the marital status is unknown, the distinction is based on age, so that if you are forty and look quite young, you may be called signorina. Take it as a compliment. Or flattery.

  • Female doctors are called dottoressa, female teachers and professors are called professoressa. In Italy, all but elementary school teachers are called professors.

  • All college graduates (laureati) may be called dottore or dottoressa. If you want to specify that a dottore is a physician, use the term medico (the same for men and women).

  • There are many more titles in Italy than in America. Lawyers are called avvocato (females are called either avvocato or avvocatessa), abbreviated avv. Architects are called architetto, abbreviated arch. (pronounced ark). Engineers are called ingegner, abbreviated ing. Even non-college-graduates have titles, such as ragionier, rag., (bookkeeper) and geometra (literally a surveyor, more of a para-professional architect).

  • Priests may familiarly be known as don (not to be confused with Mafia dons).