The Italian language is popular for good reason. Its long history as a Romance language and musicality are just a couple of them. Not only does it roll off the tongue, but there are many fascinating words that aren’t always translatable into English. Here are some of our favourites. 

Sprezzatura

The first written record of sprezzatura was in The Book of the Courtier (1528) by Baldassare Castiglione. In the book, he defines it as: 

"A certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it".

It’s great to have one word to describe this concept of putting in a great deal of effort to appear effortless. 

Sfogarsi

Sfogarsi is to let off steam, or to open one’s heart. Interestingly, it can be used in both a positive and negative sense. It can be used to describe someone getting all their feelings off of their chest. But, it can also be used to describe someone taking their negative feelings out on somebody else. 

Allora

Allora is a very elegant-sounding and useful Italian word. It is used to say “so”, “then”, often as a way to start a sentence. It’s a word you can really elongate to buy time whilst you scramble for your sentence. It sounds a lot better than “ermmmm”. 

Culaccino

Culaccino describes a very specific thing. It describes a watermark - but not just any stain. Specifically, it is the water ring left on a surface by a cup. 

Struggimento

Italians are known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves, and the concept of struggimento is no different. It refers to torment, agony and misery. It is often related to heartbreak. It is difficult to translate into English because we don’t have an exact term for it, so we could learn from the Italians in being more open about difficult feelings. 

Mozzafiato

The closest English word to mozzafiato would be ‘breathtaking’. It is composed of two Italian words - mozzare, meaning to cut off, and fiato - breath. Next time you see an amazing painting or a beautiful view, you can say è mozzafiato.  

Dietrologia

We’re ending this article with one of the most intriguing Italian words, dietrologia. It refers to the conviction that surface reality contains underlying truths, and the obsessive search for these hidden meanings or motives. The closest thing in English would probably be a conspiracy theorist, like Fox Mulder of The X Files. According to this language article, “many Italians believe that the surface or official explanation for something can rarely be the real one.”

You may also enjoy: 4 words or phrases from French that English really needs

Laura Kelly

Laura is a Marketing Executive at Readable. She loves coffee, literature, weightlifting and film photography.