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17 Fascinating Italian Words That Can’t Be Directly Translated Into English

17 Fascinating Italian Words That Can’t Be Directly Translated Into English

The Italian language is a fascinating mix of words and expressions that represent its culture and history. Think of food, opera, design, fashion, and the arts. Simply sit back and reflect on the astonishing influence Italian culture has had on music, opera, and literature. Mozart composed most of his operas in Italian, rather than German. Not surprising when you consider that the most important composers of the Renaissance and Baroque periods were Italian and most musical terminology is still in their language.

Each language has unique words which often reflect its culture. Italian is no exception as we will see from the list of 17 words which cannot really be directly translated into English.

1. Culaccino

Italian cuisine has a fine reputation which is widely recognized. Many food words reflect this. “Culaccino” is used to describe the mark left by a glass on the tablecloth, because it is wet or stained.

2. Abbiocco

Still on food. Have you ever felt rather drowsy after a full meal? When you succumb to that sleepy feeling, you have the “abbiocco”. Just mutter it as you drift into that snooze.

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3. Boh!

This is the most wonderful word of all and takes up so little space and time. It has various nuances which wander aimlessly between “I don’t know” to “I have no idea” or “I don’t know and what kind of idiot are you to ask me why/how I would know the answer to that!”

4. Ciofeca

How on earth can you describe a poor quality and badly prepared drink, such as coffee? Italians will have none of this and their word “ciofeca” sums all that up in one word. Why on earth would you want to spend more words in describing a lousy coffee? It sounds horrible and it is!

5. Furbo

This can be roughly translated as person who is crafty, sly or devious. But there is something missing. The Italian word contains an element of criticism or warning but also reflects a certain admiration in how they manage to carry it off, be successful and get away with it!

6. Pantofolaio

Imagine trying to find one English word which describes a person who loafs around at home and rarely goes out? “Pantofolaio” describes this person perfectly as “pantofole” is the Italian word for slippers.

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7. Salapuzio

Do you ever meet a rather short man who happens to be a know-it-all? He may be rather unpleasant and may even be lewd. “Salapuzio” is the word you need. This word comes from the Latin word “salaputium.”

8. Faloppone

Think of a person who never finishes anything, is self-important, and is full of empty promises. The Italian word “faloppone” expresses this very neatly. Now, I wonder why Italians often use this word to describe politicians?

9. Gattara

This can be roughly translated as a cat lady but that does not go far enough. Cat lady may simply refer to a cat lover who has one or more cats at home. This Italian word usually means an older lady who wanders the streets, looks after stray cats, and spends most of her time, energy and money on looking after them.

10. Rocambolesco

This is really a borrowed word from the French one, rocambolesque. The word comes from a character called Rocambole who was a daring adventurer, invented by the author Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail. When you want to describe an adventure or event that was daring, epic, fantastic, gripping, and incredible, then “rocambolesco” is perfect.

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11. Meriggiare

This word suits the Italian climate perfectly. “Meriggiare” means to rest in the shade on a very hot day. It is actually the title of the poem, Meriggiare by Eugenio Montale.

12. Magari

A wonderful word with many uses and meanings. It can mean a banal “I wish” but is more often used to express the idea of hope, longing and wishful thinking in the sense “If only it were true” as one dreams of fortune, wealth, and happiness. It is also used to introduce diplomatic advice so you use it at the beginning of the sentence when suggesting a little more or less pepper would have made the pasta ideal. Its origin is from the ancient Greek word “makarie” which means those lucky people who can.

13. Menfreghista

This word is used for those people who couldn’t give a damn about anything or anyone else. The Italian expression for “I don’t care” is “Non me ne frega.” So, when you want to describe a person who has this awful attitude, he or she is a “menefreghista.” There is nothing as neat as that in English.

14. Qualunquismo

Perhaps this is the negative version of whatever, but refers to an attitude of distrust, scepticism and apathy in politics. Its origin is traced back to a political movement (Fronte dell’Uomo Qualunque) founded after World War II in Italy. It was supposedly apolitical and proposed an alternative to left and right political policies at the time.

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15. Cornuto

This is a word which means having horns and is used to describe a horned animal. But its use in contemporary Italian more often refers to a person who is being cheated on. The nearest English equivalent is the rather Shakespearian word “cuckolded” but nobody uses that now.

16. Gibigianna

If you say this word softly, it helps you to visualize its meaning – the flash of reflected light on water. Just one word to convey that beautiful scene. It also has a figurative meaning as in a woman who wants to flaunt her charms or dazzle you with her elegance.

17. Apericena

When you have an aperitif you whet your appetite before a meal, Why not go one step further and enjoy some delicious samples of food in readiness for dinner (cena)? This is an “apericena” and many bars offer them free of charge, maybe in the hope you will order a second drink.

Featured photo credit: ho visto nina volare/ via Flickr via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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