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Monica Alletto / © Culture Trip
Monica Alletto / © Culture Trip
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15 Beautiful Italian Words We Need in English

Picture of Gillian McGuire
Updated: 23 March 2018
Italian is one of the world’s most beautiful languages. Remember that seduction scene in a Fish Called Wanda (1988)? Or how Gomez called his beloved Morticia ‘Cara Mia’ in the Addams Family? All of those elongated vowels, staccato constants and melodically rolled R’s make even the simplest of words sound much more romantic. Below is a list of 15 beautiful Italian words that we definitely need in English.

Sprezzatura

More of a concept than a word, it was created in the 16th century by Baldassare Castiglione in his work The Book of the Courtier. It means a kind of effortless elegance. To be truly sprezzatura, you should make sure you never look like you are trying too hard.

Passeggiata

This word means ‘walk’ – but it is so much more than a late afternoon or an evening stroll. This walk is about seeing and being seen, and it happens in Italy’s biggest cities and smallest towns. There is often gelato involved.

Passeggiata
Passeggiata | Monica Alletto / © Culture Trip

Allora

Meaning ‘and’, ‘so’ or ‘thus’, this is the most versatile of filler words. Italians use a long, drawn out allora at the start of a sentence to buy themselves a little time when they don’t know what to say.

Crepuscolo

Meaning ‘twilight’. It makes the ideal Instagram hashtag to describe that perfect shot of the golden or blue hour.

Cucciolo

Baby animal, usually a puppy or kitten. The double ‘cc’ in Italian is pronounced like ‘ch’ in English, making this a wonderfully fun word to say. It is used as a term of endearment.

Mozzafiato

This means ‘breathtaking’. This literal word comes from mozzare, meaning to cut or chop off and fiato, meaning breath. It can be used when talking about a particularly beautiful work of art or a scenic view.

Mozzafiato
Mozzafiato | © Culture Trip

Magari

This means ‘maybe’. This word is used as an expression of hope like ‘I wish’ or ‘I hope so’.

Boh

This means ‘who knows’. Always said with a dramatic shrug of the shoulders and a furrowed brow.

Mamma mia

Yes, Italians really do use this declarative phrase in every-day conversation. It is used to express exasperation, fear, joy and excitement.

Mama Mia
Mama Mia | Monica Alletto / © Culture Trip

Impiraressa

This means ‘bead stringer’, used mainly in Venice to describe women who string tiny glass seed beads that are made on the island of Murano.

Salve

From the Latin to ‘be well’. Used primarily in Rome as a greeting, this word falls between the formal buongiorno/arrivederci and the informal ciao.

Torno subito

Meaning ‘be back soon’. You will likely see this scribbled on a sign in a shop window. It can involve a break of anything from five minutes to five days.

Torno Subito
Torno Subito | Monica Alletto / © Culture Trip

Furbo

This means ‘clever’. This is another example of a term that is more of a concept than an adjective, and is often used to describe a sly, crafty act like tax evasion or cutting in line.

Auguri

Meaning ‘best wishes’. This word is used to say (and sing) happy birthday, as well as saying Merry Christmas and Happy Easter.

Figurati

Meaning ‘imagine’. Imagine is the technical translation of this word, but you will hear it used as ‘my pleasure’, or ‘don’t worry about it’.

Daje

Meaning ‘come on!’ The Roman version of the Italian word dai is said in two drawn out syllables, almost always in a shout.