Italian Language/panini


Dear Lauren,

My question is about the word “panini”.  In America, we use the term “panini” to refer to a type of sandwich (singular) that must be grilled in a specific type of grilling machine called a panini press.  We distinguish this “panini” from what is considered a regular “sandwich” that is composed of two pieces of bread with some type of meat (usually cold) in between the pieces of bread, but is not grilled in a panini press.

The reason I explain all of this (which I’m sure you already know) is because the computer course I am presently using to study Italian shows a picture of a regular sandwich (as I described above), but has this labeled this sandwich  as a “panino”.  When I looked up “panino” in my Italian to English dictionary, a “panino” is translated as a “roll”.

So, I’m once again confused.  Can you please help me to clear up my confusion by answering the following:

[1]  Is there a sandwich in Italy equivalent to the American “panini” that I described above?  If “yes” can you please tell me what this is called in Italy.

[2]  What would a regular American sandwich (as I tried to describe above) be called in Italy.

[3]  Finally, can you please tell me the meaning of “panino” and “panini” in Italy?

Thank you so much for your help.  I hope you don’t mind so many questions.



Hi Rich,

To answer your questions in the order that you sent them:
1. A sandwich in Italy equivalent to an American panini would be just called a 'panino' in Italian. In England, we also have the words 'panini' and 'sandwich' for the two different food concepts that you mentioned above. However, in Italy, as in many other places in Europe, a sandwich in the sense of two pieces of bread with meat is very uncommon. It is far more likely that bread is grilled and so 'panino' in the singular is the word to use.

2. A regular American sandwich would simply be 'un sandwich' in Italian. It is a foreign concept that would not actually be seen often in Italy.

3. "Panini" in actual Italian is just the plural form of 'panino' so it would be like saying 'grilled sandwiches' instead of 'a grilled sandwich.' For some reason in our English culture, we have adopted the word in the plural but it would be chiefly used in the singular in Italian. Translating 'panino' as 'roll' is one possible option used as the word 'panino' is quite flexible and will be used generically in Italy to refer to any type of grilled sandwich, roll etc. It could similarly be used to describe a 'sub' or 'hero.'

Hope this helps,
Kind regards,

Italian Language

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Lauren O' Hagan


Although not my mother tongue, I have spoken Italian fluently for more than 12 years so I am very confident to answer any questions about the Italian language. I am also competent in Roman Dialect if there are any questions relating to this.


MA Applied Linguistics First Class Honours in Modern Language Studies (Linguistics, Italian, Spanish) Received the top grade in the whole of UK for GCSE Italian, receiving a letter of congratulations from the Italian Consulate Completed my two-year A Level in 1 year with a grade A country. Carried out many translation jobs for a wide range of clients and topics including self-help, literature and exam papers. For personal reference, I have also translated Federico Moccia's Tre Metri Sopra Il Cielo and 2 of Francesco Totti's book.

El Pensador, University of Bristol

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Letter of recognition from the Italian consulate MA Applied Linguistics BA Hons Modern Language Studies CELTA qualified C1 CILS C2 DELE

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