A Dictionary Of Beautiful, But Forgotten, Italian Words

These “vintage” Italian words have fallen out of fashion, but we think it’s about time they made a comeback. Check out our favorites.
April 19, 2017
A Dictionary Of Beautiful, But Forgotten, Italian Words

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” and old Italian words that deserve a comeback.

Apostrofare

verb: to harangue

Ammaliare

verb: to charm

Artefatto

adjective: unnatural

Bislacco

adjective: odd

Buonamano

noun: tip

Forbito

adjective: refined

Frusto

adjective: threadbare, worn-out

Gaglioffo

noun: a rapscallion

Granciporro

noun: an enormous mistake (literally: a big crab)

Lapalissiano

adjective: obvious

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?

Luculliano

adjective: plush

From Lucio Licinio Lucullo, an ancient Roman famous for his sumptuous feasts.

Meditabondo

adjective: pensive; contemplative

Obnubilato

adjective: clouded

Pleonastico

adjective: pleonastic

From the Greek πλεονασμός — pleonasmòs — which means “superfluous”

Ramanzina

noun: telling-off

Variant: romanzina (a long speech)

Sagittabondo

adjective: with eyes able to launch love arrows

From the Latin sagitta which means “arrow.”

Sciamannato

adjective: shabby

Sgarzigliona

noun: a buxom woman

Smargiasso

noun: braggart

Solipsista

adjective: selfish

This comes from the philosophical idea of Solipsism.

Trasecolato

adjective: astonished

Literally: “out of the century.” To be so surprised, you’re in another century.

Vattelappesca

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.

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Author Headshot
Giulia Depentor
Giulia is a writer with a passion for true crime, family trees and historical eras she hasn’t lived in. In her spare time, she plays the ukelele and collects faded photos of people she doesn’t know.
Giulia is a writer with a passion for true crime, family trees and historical eras she hasn’t lived in. In her spare time, she plays the ukelele and collects faded photos of people she doesn’t know.

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