Lost in Translation

The Italian language is perhaps the most beautiful language in terms of sound. Some Italian grammar rules are solely based on the harmony of letters. But besides the melody, Italian words often have a colloquial meaning and history–most of which lose their meaning in translation.

Below are some of my favorite words in Italian. These words are definitely unique and only add to the beauty of the Italian language.

Girasole | (noun- masculine) | jee-raso-le | English translation: sunflower

Gira means “to turn” while sole means “the sun.” When sunflowers grow, they always face towards the sun.

Primavera | (noun- feminine) | pree-ma-ve-ra | English translation: spring

Spring is a time of rebirth. It is when the cold and dark winter is replaced by the freshness and warmness of spring. La primavera means “first truth.” (Prima = first ; vera = truth)

Lost In Translation Image 1

In bocca al lupo | (expression) | in bo-ka del loo-pa | English translation: good luck

This expression has more of an emphasis than simply “good luck.” It is the Italian’s version of “break a leg.” However, the literal translation of the phrase is “in mouth at the wolf.” When faced with a possibly difficult situation (in the mouth of a wolf), the best is wished.

Piano | (adverb) | pya-no | English translation: slowly

This word refers to a level in a building. A more useful definition, though, would be “slowly” (but in a unique way). A perfect example of when to use piano is in talking about the Italian culture. Compared to other cultures, Italians live life slowly and freely, without stress. When the Italians see a person in a rush, they say piano, piano.

Lost In Translation Image 2

Basta | (exclamation) | ba-sta | English translation: enough

This word means “enough,” but in a semi-exclamatory way. It is used when one has had enough of something or someone. For example, “basta pasta,” or an adult might say to his/her misbehaved child: basta.

Laurearsi | (verb) | lor-ree-ar-si | English translation: to graduate

This verb stems from Roman times. The educated Romans wore laurels on their heads.

Lost In Translation Image 3

Giallo/a | (adjective) | ja-lo/a | English translation: (1) yellow; (2) mystery

Why does this word have two very different definitions? In 1929, when detective stories became popular, the book publishers of Europe decided this genre should have a specific identification.  They decided that all detective books would have a yellow book cover. The genre mystery thus gained the name giallo.


Leslie Diaz is a student at Marist College and an official API Blogger. Leslie is studying abroad with API in Taormina, Italy.

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