Learning Italian might seem like a hard task, but did you know that many English words were derived from Latin? Unsurprisingly, Latin and Italian are very similar. Whether it be for your next trip to Italy, or an interesting conversation starter, here are a few Italian words you already know and use, though their meanings may be a bit different than you thought:
In the US, this would most likely refer to a cocktail. However, in Italy it is the name of one of the most traditional pizzas – a delicious pie covered in tomato sauce, smooth mozzarella, and flavorful basil. Margherita is also one of the most popular names in Italy, though in this case it refers to the Italian name for the “daisy” flower, not a parent’s favorite pizza.
You might recognise confetti as lots of colourful paper decorations used at events like weddings, baby showers, birthdays, concerts, you name it. However, Italian confetti are actually candy… almost like oversized, elongated M&Ms, but better, and still found at parties thrown for special life events (baptisms, graduations, etc.). If you’re looking for the American paper ‘confetti’, they are actually called ‘coriandoli’ and are very popular in Italy, especially during the carnival season.
Believe it or not, peperoni are peppers, not ‘salami’. So if you’re in Italy ordering a pizza and you want ‘salami’, make sure you ask for salame. That’s right, ask for ‘peperoni’ and you’ll get a pizza covered in bell peppers – an excellent vegetarian option.
In cinematography this term is used internationally for a short feature, much like Stan Lee in Marvel films or Lewis Hamilton & Jeremy Clarckson in Cars. But have you ever heard of the Cameo jewellery? Often worn both by men and women, this jewellery has a history dating back to the ancient Egyptians and Arabs. ‘Cameo’ is an Italian word which once meant ‘to engrave’, describing the delicate creative process used to carve into real shells to make these highly valuable pieces. The best are always hand crafted, so no one Cameo is the same as another. Many believed that they would bring good health and fortune.
Curious about other Italian words that English has borrowed? Take a look at our Italian Language and Culture Page to discover options for language learning in Perugia!
About the Author:
Sara is interning with the Umbra Institute through ISI Abroad as part of her gap year experience. A bilingual native of England and Italy, she’s traveled the globe seeking to learn diverse cultural and historical perspectives. She’ll be your guide this fall as you plan for your study experience in Perugia.