The Italian language is often associated with beauty. Beauty was, indeed, one of the reasons why, in the fourteenth century, Italian (back then, a dialect) was chosen as the literary language by Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarca, the “fantastic three” of the Italian literature. Round vowels, uncommon consonant clusters, and a highly melodious intonation make Italian sound musical to non-native ears, who often feel Italians are singing instead of talking. But what are the most beautiful Italian words?
- Bello – Italians are not ashamed to use this word, in all its declinations: bellissimo, strabello, bellino …. It’s short, easy, and applies to everything, from a chubby newborn to a good movie. Bella! is even a way to say Hi! between younger people. In this case it has nothing to do with beautiful. It’s just … Bella!
- Nuvola – According to Fabrizio De Andrè, one of the greatest Italian singer-songwriters, the simple word nuvola is a gem. With its beautiful sound, the stress falling on the first syllable (nu-), it perfectly reflects the weightless essence of the thing it designates, and is indeed much loved by poets and writers.
- Meriggiare – This highly poetic word is rarely used in everyday Italian. It means to rest, or take a nap, in the afternoon, in the shade; indeed, you might detect the word pomeriggio, which means afternoon. To most people it might evoke high school memories from a famous poem, Meriggiare pallido e assort
- Ricordo – It means memory and its etymology is remarkable. It comes from the Latin re- (indietro, meaning back) and cor (cuore, meaning heart), so it’s richiamare in cuore, to call back in your heart. The word evokes the possibility to recover in your heart—even before it happens in your brain—something that is not here anymore.
- Delizioso – It translates as delicious and, like other words ending in -zioso—like lezioso, sfizioso, malizioso, prezioso—has a light, winking touch that adds a layer of cuteness to everything you are labelling as delizioso.
- Struggimento – The term has a dramatic sound given by the str- cluster and the double g but, mostly, it has an almost untranslatable nuance. It evokes misery, anxiety, and grief with peculiar urgency and a consuming sense, but still something deserved to be fully felt. Ideal for describing romantic agonies!
- Eufonìa – This means “pleasant to the ears” and aside from being a very musical word itself, it denotes a quest for beauty almost intrinsic to the Italian language. As an Italian learner, you often hear things like “this verb behaves like this to preserve the soft c sound,” for instance. The thing is that pronouncing some words in a certain way—thus considering their eufonìa—is just … bello, isn’t it?
By Claudia Quesito
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