Italian word of the day: ‘Ninnananna’

Italian word of the day: 'Ninnananna'
Photo: DepositPhotos
Need a nap? Let this soothing word help you drift off.

Most of the time, we try to pick Italian words that are really useful: words like allora, quindi, cioè and insomma that we know you can use every day (and even every other sentence if you feel like it).

But sometimes we allow ourselves to pick words just because we like them. And that's what we're doing today with ninnananna.

Say it out loud and you might be able to guess at what it means: una ninnananna, with its sing-song sound and repeating Ns (six! count 'em!) is the Italian word for a lullaby.

It's related to the verb ninnare, which means to lull someone to sleep. And how better to do that than by singing them a sweet tune (cantare una dolce ninnananna)?

È la ninnananna che mi cantava la mamma.
It's the lullaby my mum used to sing to me.

You might also see it written as two separate words: either spelling is perfectly fine.

La sua voce è calma, come una ninna nanna.
His voice is soft, like a lullaby.

To give you some ideas, here's a traditional Italian ninnananna called 'Fate la nanna, coscine di pollo', which roughly translates as: “Go to beddy-byes, little chicken legs”. (Now that we can't explain.)

Listen out for the lines:

Ninnananna, ninnananna,
Il bambino è della mamma,
Della mamma e di Gesù,
Il bambino non piange più.

Lullaby, lullaby,
Baby belongs to mother,
To mother and to Jesus,
Baby cries no more.

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.