'Roman' vs 'Italian': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on June 15, 2023

‘Roman’ vs. ‘Italian’: What’s the difference? At first glance, the difference between the two may seem simple. The former refers to a citizen of a city, the latter a citizen of a country. But if we take a look at ancient history, we can see things are a bit more complex. 

Knowing when to use ‘Roman’ and when to use ‘Italian’ can help keep your work concise and accurate. In this article, we will give you all the information you need to make sure you nail down the difference between these two words. 

Want the short version? Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll learn: 

  • ‘Roman’ refers to something that relates to ancient Rome and its empire
  • ‘Italian’ refers to the people and language of Italy

What’s the Difference Between ‘Roman’ and ‘Italian’? 

To truly understand the difference between ‘Roman’ and ‘Italian,’ we should consider a couple of easy distinctions. First, small versus big or city versus country. Rome is a city that is located in the country of Italy — a smaller part of the larger whole. 

  • Need an easy way to remember? Think of the rule of squares and rectangles. All rectangles are squares, but not all squares are rectangles. Similarly, all Romans are Italians, but not all Italians are Romans. 

A second distinction to consider is old versus new or history versus today because ‘Roman’ can also refer to the ancient empire. 

  • For example, the Roman Empire was founded in 27 BC, but Italy wasn’t founded as a country until 1861. 

Now that you know some basic differences, let’s take a closer look at ‘Roman’ vs ‘Italian.’

Definition of ‘Roman’: What Does It Mean?

Oxford Languages defines ‘Roman’ as an adjective meaning:

  • Relating to ancient or medieval Rome or its empire or people

It can also mean: 

  • A short term for Roman Catholic
  • Denoting the alphabet used for writing Latin, English, and most European languages developed in ancient Rome

As a noun, ‘Roman’ is also defined as: 

  • A citizen or soldier of the ancient Roman Republic or Empire
  • (On a keyboard) of Roman type or font. 

Synonyms of ‘Roman’

  • Latin
  • Classic
  • Ionic
  • Augustan
  • Doric
  • Font
  • Agate

Antonyms of ‘Roman’ 

  • Modern
  • Complicated

Phrases with ‘Roman’

  • Roman numeral
  • Roman Catholic
  • Roman Empire
  • Greco Roman
  • Roman Candle

An important thing to note about the word ‘Roman’ is its connection to the term ‘Romance.’ In this case, ‘Romance’ does not refer to love or affection but rather things that are Roman. 

  • For example, the Romance Languages are those derived from Latin spoken by the ancient Romans. These languages include Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese. 

Definition of ‘Italian’: What Does It Mean?

Oxford Languages defines ‘Italian’ as an adjective meaning: 

  • Relating to Italy, its people, or its language

It can also be a noun meaning: 

  • A native or inhabitant of Italy or a person of Italian descent
  • The Romance language of Italy descended from Latin.
  • It is also one of the official languages of Switzerland. 

Synonyms of ‘Italian’

  • Italic
  • Indo-European
  • Continental
  • Latin
  • Italish
  • Florentine
  • Tuscan
  • Venetian

Antonyms of ‘Italian’

  • Germanic

Phrases with ‘Italian’

  • Italian restaurant
  • Italian citizen
  • To learn Italian
  • Italian Peninsula 

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Roman’ vs ‘Italian’

Since you won’t just be using these new words in your writing, it is important to know how to pronounce them. Additionally, since ‘Roman’ and ‘Italian’ refer to a foreign country, we will also teach you how to say them like a native Italian speaker. 

Use this guide to master the American pronunciations.

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Roman’ for reference: 

Roh-muhn (with a long ‘O’ as used in ‘show’)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Italian’ for reference: 

Ih-ta-lee-uhn (with the first ‘I’ as used in ‘if’)

Now use this guide to master the European pronunciation. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Romano’ for reference: 

Ro-mah-no (with a wide ‘A’ instead of an ‘uh’ sound)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Italiano’ for reference: 

Ee-ta-lee-ah-no (with tall ‘I’ sounds as in ‘tree,’ and the same wide ‘A’)

How to use ‘Roman’ vs ‘Italian’ in a Sentence

Now that you have the details let's put our new words into action. Given the historical nature of ‘Roman’ and ‘Italian,’ you must be mindful of the context in which the words appear. 

Here are some ways you can use ‘Roman’ and ‘Italian’ in a sentence to make your writing stand out and be more clear: 


  • Caesar Augustus is one of the most notorious Roman emperors. 
  • The Colosseum is an icon symbol of Roman history. 
  • Roman candles are huge popular fireworks that are launched on July 4th. 
  • The most common font type is Times News Roman


  • New York and New Jersey have a significant Italian population.
  • People who learn Spanish often also understand Italian because they are similar.
  • My favorite Italian restaurant serves gnocchi with pesto sauce. 
  • We went on a three-week vacation to the beautiful Italian coast. 

Final Advice on ‘Roman’ vs ‘Italian’

In this article, we covered everything from synonyms to phrases to best practices and examples of when and how to use ‘Roman’ and ‘Italian.’ With this new knowledge, you’ll be able to polish your writing and keep things clear. 

If you want a short recap:

  • Remember that ‘Roman’ typically refers to things or people related to the ancient empire,
  • And ‘Italian’ is more modern and is connected to the people and language of Italy.

You’ve also had a small history lesson from this article as well which can be just as important when writing or presenting; it allows you to be more culturally aware as well as knowledgeable on the roots of the words you’ve just learned. 

We know related words can be stressful to learn, especially when they frequently appear together. But now you have the tools to keep these tricky words at bay and keep your writing as precise as possible. If this guide was helpful, you can also check out our other confusing word articles to help expand your vocabulary, stay historically accurate, and prepare yourself for any upcoming academic writing assignments.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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