Illustration by Elena Lombardi
Italian is world-famous for sonorous and emotionally expressive words. But, believe it or not, there are many wonderful Italian words that never made it to modern times. We think that’s a shame, so we’ve collected our favorite “vintage” Italian words that deserve a comeback.
verb: to harangue
verb: to charm
adjective: threadbare, worn-out
noun: a rapscallion
noun: an enormous mistake (literally: a big crab)
The word originates from the grave of Marshal Jacques de La Palice. The tombstone said “Ci-gît le Seigneur de La Palice: s’il n’était pas mort, il ferait encore envie.” (Here lies the Seigneur de La Palice: If he weren’t dead, he would still be envied.) The words were misread in “… s’il n’était pas mort, il serait encore en vie” (If he weren’t dead, he would still be alive). Quite obvious, right?
From Lucio Licinio Lucullo, an ancient Roman famous for his sumptuous feasts.
adjective: pensive; contemplative
From the Greek πλεονασμός — pleonasmòs — which means “superfluous”
Variant: romanzina (a long speech)
adjective: with eyes able to launch love arrows
From the Latin sagitta which means “arrow.”
noun: a buxom woman
This comes from the philosophical idea of Solipsism.
Literally: “out of the century.” To be so surprised, you’re in another century.
interjection: who knows?!
The “and all” that Holden Caulfied says constantly in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye became vattelappesca in the most famous Italian translation.