What Does 'Don' Mean In Spanish (And Italian)?

  • Lara Scott
    Written byLara Scott
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What Does 'Don' Mean In Spanish (And Italian)?

When you hear the word don, you might immediately think of Don Quixote, the famous Spanish novel, or perhaps Don Corleone from The Godfather, a character deeply rooted in Italian culture.

What does the word don mean?

Well, the term don has a distinct place in both Spanish and Italian languages which I’ll explain below.


In Spanish, don is a title used as a form of address, signifying respect or social standing.

Traditionally, don precedes the first name.

It’s somewhat analogous to “Sir” or “Mr.” in English but is used more selectively.

Listen to audio

¿Don Pedro, cómo está usted?

Don Pedro, how are you?

Note that don is not merely for older individuals.

It can be used for anyone who you wish to show utmost respect or regard, whether due to their age, position, or even accomplishments.

The female counterpart for don is “doña”.

Listen to audio

Doña Maria es una profesora respetada en nuestra comunidad.

Doña Maria is a respected teacher in our community.


In Italian, don is a title mainly used within religious contexts to address a priest.

It’s similar to “Father” in English-speaking countries.

Listen to audio

Don Mezzofanti celebrerà la Messa domenica.

Don Mezzofanti will celebrate the Mass on Sunday.

However, just like its Spanish counterpart, it can also be used as a form of address for men of high social standing or respect, although this is less common today.

In Italian popular culture, especially as reflected through films and literature, Don may sometimes be used to refer to the head of a mafia family, similar to how it is commonly portrayed in English-language media.

Listen to audio

Don Giovanni è un uomo di grande influenza.

Don Giovanni is a man of great influence.


While sharing some similarities, the word don has different cultural and contextual nuances in Spanish and Italian.

In Spanish, it is a title that pays homage to someone’s respectable standing, while in Italian, its primary usage is religious, as a title for priests.

Next time you encounter don, remember that this tiny word’s meaning may shift depending on whether you find yourself with Spanish or Italian speakers.

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