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Italian word of the day: 'Cioè'

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Italian word of the day: 'Cioè'
Photo: DepositPhotos
16:07 CEST+02:00
This popular word will help you express yourself more clearly – that is to say, better.

Once you get your tongue round the mouthful of vowels, cioè (pronounced "cho-eh") can come in very handy.

It's a contraction of ciò (this/that) and è (is), and it means "that is to say", "i.e.", "namely". It's a way to follow up on something you've just said and make it clearer or give more details.

Sono arrivato il 13, cioè domenica.
I arrived on the 13th, that is, Sunday.

Nel gioco del cricket mia figlia è un bowler, cioè lancia la palla.
In cricket my daughter is a bowler, i.e., she throws the ball.

Mi mancano ancora alcuni mobili, cioè: un tavolo, due sedie, un comodino.
I'm still missing some pieces of furniture, namely a table, two chairs, a bedside cabinet.

And when someone else hasn't been quite as clear as you'd like, you can turn cioè into a question to request an explanation.

– Vengo tra poco.
– Cioè? 

– I'll come soon. 
– Which means...?

You can also use cioè to correct yourself mid-sentence – a bit like saying "or rather" or "I mean..." after a slip of the tongue. When it's used this way you might hear people adding or no afterwards for extra emphasis.

Fai venire qui Luigi - Mario cioè.
Get Luigi, I mean Mario, to come here.

Questo è il mio, cioè no, il tuo!
This one's mine, or rather, yours!

Non posso venire, cioè sì, mi basta saperlo per tempo.
I can't come, or rather, I can, I just have to know in good time.

But even when you're not quite sure what you mean, cioè's the word for you. Nowadays you'll hear it used as a filler, a pausing word you can grab while you look for a better phrase. In fact for some Italian speakers, cioè has become a bit of a verbal tic – just like the word "like" in English. 

Sì, cioè...
Yes, well, you know... 

Cioè, è bello, vero?
Like, it's nice, isn't it?

And just like "like", cioè is beloved by teenage girls – so much so that there's a teen magazine named after it. Like, cool!


The latest edition of Cioè.

Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.

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