Happy Birthday in Italian: Wishes, traditions, songs and sayings

Chances are you’re here because you want to wish a friend a happy birthday in Italian in a way that your message will be well received. In Italy, we love to celebrate special occasions and anniversaries, so learning how to say happy birthday is essential if you want to have a great social life.

In this article we’ll look at all the different ways to congratulate someone on their birthday, whether in person, by text or with an Italian birthday card. You'll also learn how to pronounce birthday wishes, use the verb compiere in Italian, and, of course, sing the Happy birthday song in Italian, a must for every party.

And, if that’s not enough, we’re also going to learn about some Italian birthday traditions and FAQs.

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How to say “Happy Birthday!” in Italian

Happy Birthday in Italian.

There are two main ways of wishing someone a happy birthday in Italian:

  • Buon compleanno!

This literally translates as “good birthday” and it can be used on its own or in combination with:

  • Tanti auguri!

which means many wishes. You could say, for example:

  • Tanti auguri di buon compleanno!
    Many wishes for a good birthday!

Of course, there are many variants of these phrases too. Let’s see some of them.

English Italian Italian pronunciation
Happy birthday! Buon compleanno! Boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh!
Happy birthday! Tanti auguri! Tahn-tee ah-oo-gooh-ree!
Belated happy birthday! Auguri in ritardo! Ah-oo-gooh-ree een ree-tar-doh
Thanks for being born! Grazie di esistere! Grah-tsee-eh dee eh-zee-steh-reh!
Happy birthday my love. Buon compleanno, amore mio. Boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh, ah-moh-reh mee-oh
Happy birthday, brother/sister/mom/dad. Buon compleanno, fratello/sorella/mamma/papà. Boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh, frah-tell-oh/soh-rell-ah/mahm-mah/pah-pàh
Happy birthday grandma/grandpa. Buon compleanno, nonna/nonno. Boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh, john-nah/nohn-noh
One hundred more of these days! Cento di questi giorni! Chen-toh dee kwess-tee jor-nee
Wishing you a very happy birthday! Tanti auguri di buon compleanno! Tahn-tee ah-oo-gooh-ree dee boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh
Happy birthday my friend. Buon compleanno amico/a mio/a. Boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh, ah-mee-koh/ah-mee-kah mee-oh/mee-ah
Best birthday wishes to you! I migliori auguri di buon compleanno! Ee mee-llyoh-ree ah-oo-goo-ree dee com-pleh-ann-noh
Happy birthday beautiful! Buon compleanno, bello/a! Boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh, bell-oh/bell-ah!
Happy 21st/ 30th/40th/50th etc. birthday Buon 21esimo/30esimo compleanno Boo-on vehn-too-neh-zee-moh com-pleh-ann-noh
Hope all your wishes come true! Spero che tutti i tuoi desideri si avverino! Speh-roh keh too-tee ee too-oh-ee deh-zee-deh-ree see ah-veh-ree-noh
I wish you a happy birthday! Ti auguro un buon compleanno! Tee ah-oo-goo-roh oon boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh
Happy birthday, have a good one! Buon compleanno, divertiti! Boo-on com-pleh-ann-noh, dee-verr-tee-tee

Auguri is translated as “wishes” and it can be used for other special occasions, too.

  • Auguri di Buon Natale
    Merry Christmas
  • Auguri di Buon Anno
    Happy New Year
  • Auguri per la festa del papà
    Happy Father's Day

“When is your birthday?” and the verb compiere in Italian

If you’re talking about birthdays, it’s good to know the verb compiere (com-pyeh-reh) in Italian, which means “to turn” (referred to years).

Here’s the conjugation of compiere:

  • Io compio (com-pyoh)
  • Tu compi (com-peeh)
  • Lui/lei compie (com-pyeh)
  • Noi compiamo (com-pyah-moh)
  • Voi compiete (com-pyeh-te)
  • Loro compiono (com-pyoh-noh)

When you ask someone when their birthday is in Italian, you need to use this verb:

  • Quando compi gli anni?
    (When is your birthday? - Lit. “When do you turn years?”)
  • Compio gli anni il 24 giugno.
    (It is on the 24th of June. - Lit. “I turn years on the 24th of June.)

Here are some more useful expressions that you can learn to ask and talk about birthdays:

English Italian Italian pronunciation
When is your birthday? Quand’è il tuo compleanno? Kwan-dèh eel too-oh com-pleh-ann-noh
My birthday is… Il mio compleanno è il … Eel mee-oh com-pleh-ann-noh èh
How old do you turn? Quanti anni compi? Kwan-tee ahn-nee com-pee?
I turn… Ne compio… Neh com-pee-oh…
How old are you? Quanti anni hai? Kwan-tee ann-nee ah-ee?
I am… Ho … anni. Oh … ann-nee
What year were you born? Di che anno sei? Dee keh ann-noh seh-ee
I was born in… Sono del… Soh-noh dell…
You don’t show them! Non li dimostri! Non lee dee-most-ree
You carry them well! Li porti bene! Lee por-tee beh-neh
You look younger! Sembri più giovane! Sem-bree pee-ooh joh-vah-neh
What would you like for your birthday? Cosa vuoi per il tuo compleanno? Coh-sah voo-oh-ee per eel too-oh com-pleh-ann-noh
The birthday boy/girl Il festeggiato / la festeggiata Eel fess-teh-jah-toh
The present Il regalo Eel reh-gah-loh
The cake La torta Lah torr-tah
The candles Le candeline Leh can-deh-lee-neh
To blow the candles Spegnere le candeline Spe-nyeh-re leh can-deh-lee-neh
To make a wish Esprimere un desiderio Ess-pree-meh-reh oon deh-zee-deh-ree-oh
To make a toast Fare un brindisi Fah-reh oon breen-dee-zee
Birthday party Festa di compleanno Fess-tah dee com-pleh-ann-noh
Surprise party Festa a sorpresa Fess-tah ah sor-preh-zah
To celebrate a birthday Festeggiare il compleanno Fess-teh-jah-reh eel com-pleh-ann-noh
To wish a happy birthday Fare gli auguri di compleanno Fah-reh lly ah-oo-goo-ree dee com-pleh-ann-noh
To pull the ears Tirare le orecchie* Tee-rah-reh leh oh-rek-kyeh

*more on this in the “Italian birthday traditions” section

Happy birthday in Italian song with lyrics

What kind of birthday would it be if you don’t sing a birthday song for the festeggiato?

In Italian, the classic birthday song “happy birthday to you” uses the expression “tanti auguri a te”, and not “buon compleanno”!

It goes like this:

Tanti auguri a te,
Tanti auguri a te,
Tanti auguri (name)
Tanti auguri a te!

Practice it with this video before sending that WhatsApp audio message!

Tanti Auguri

Sometimes, during a birthday party you might also hear this song starting spontaneously… (Yes, it’s the Italian version of “Jolly Good Fellow!")

This isn’t a specific birthday song; in fact, it is often sung at graduations or other parties, but if you find yourself at a birthday party, it might well come up, and if you know it, sing along!

Happy birthday in Italian lyrics goes like this:

Perché è un bravo ragazzo, (For he’s a jolly good fellow x3)
Perché è un bravo ragazzo,
Perché è un bravo ragazzo….
Nessuno lo può negar! (Which nobody can deny!)

How to write a happy birthday card message in Italian

On a birthday card in Italian you can let your creativity loose. You can keep things simple and just say “auguri, or you can praise the person’s qualities and virtues before wishing them a good life with the super classic: cento di questi giorni. (A hundred of these days.)

If you want to wish someone something, you can use the expression ti auguro… which literally means “I wish for you…/ I hope”

  • Ti auguro di raggiungere tutti i tuoi obiettivi!
    I hope you can reach all your objectives!
  • Ti auguro tanto amore e felicità!
    I wish you a lot of love and happiness.

At the end of the card, you can repeat Buon compleanno! and send them a hug (un abbraccio), a kiss (un bacio) or love (con amore).

How to write a happy birthday card message in Italian.

Italian birthday traditions

Here are some traditions of an Italian compleanno. Some might be common in other countries, but others are a bit more unique!

  • Non fare gli auguri in anticipo
    Don’t say happy birthday in advance! This might sound strange, but Italians find it is bad luck to tell someone happy birthday in advance. It is better to be late than early in this case!
  • La torta di compleanno
    Of course, there is no birthday without a cake! In Italy, it is usually the festeggiato/a who picks it or makes it
  • Spegnere le candeline
    When the cake is served, of course, all the lights will go off and the candles lit. The birthday boy or girl will have to blow them and…
  • Esprimere un desiderio
    At the moment you blow out the candles, remember to think about your birthday wish (but don’t say it out loud!)
  • Tirare le orecchie
    This is probably the weirdest Italian birthday tradition… We pull the festeggiato/a’s earlobes as many times as the age they’re turning, sometimes counting out loud, and with various degrees of pain, based on your relationship to the guest of honor!
  • Offrire da bere / da mangiare
    In many countries, you get treated to food and drinks on your birthday. In Italy, it is the opposite! If the birthday girl or boy invites guests out for drinks, she or he is expected to pay for everyone!
  • Compiere 18 anni
    Turning 18 is the biggest milestone in terms of Italian birthdays. When you’re a teenager, that’s a big deal. You will now be maggiorenne (of age) and therefore able to get your driving license, travel abroad without special arrangements and get drinks in bars and pubs!

Italian happy birthday: what you need to know

Woman texting her ex-boyfriend to wish him a happy birthday in Italian.

1. Should happy birthday be capitalized in Italian?

Buon compleanno is not usually capitalized in Italian. And remember, neither are the names of days and months!

Il mio compleanno, che è il 25 gennaio, quest’anno cade di lunedì.
My birthday, which is on the 25th of January, this year falls on a Monday.

2. Should you text your ex happy birthday?

Well, in Italy it is actually quite common to stay friends with ex-partners, and even a simple tanti auguri can show you remember them kindly. I’d say, why not?!

3. Is it better to say “tanti auguri” or “buon compleanno?”

There is no difference really between the two expressions. If you’re not sure which one you want to use, just combine them, as we showed above: tanti auguri di buon compleanno!

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Cento di questi giorni…

…in which you dedicated 10 minutes to study our beautiful Italian language! If you found this article helpful don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts on our learn Italian blog.

Now you'll be able to wish someone special a happy birthday in Italian, celebrate and sing with your friends, and enjoy some birthday cake.

Remember, practicing is key when learning Italian, so go out there and ask all the native speakers you know to tell you about their Italian birthdays, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes, sbagliando s’impara!


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