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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Ragazzi’

Guys, seriously. You have to know this word.

Italian word of the day: ragazzi
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: you’ll never fit in among Italians if you don’t start using the word ragazzi.

Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find a simple enough definition: un ragazzo is a boy, una ragazza is a girl, i ragazzi are boys and le ragazze are girls.

All valid uses, but trust me, they’re not the whole picture. Ragazzi (if you’re talking to an all-male or mixed group), ragazze (if you’re talking to women), or the shortened version raga’ (good for both) are terms you’ll hear all the time in Italy, with no kids in sight.

They mean, roughly, ‘guys’, ‘folks’, ‘lads’, ‘ladies’, ‘you lot’ – anything you’d use to address a group of people at once.

Ciao raga’!
Hi guys!

OK ragazze, cosa facciamo stasera?
OK ladies, what are we doing tonight?

Forte, eh ragazzi?
Cool, right lads?

It helps that Italians’ definition of what constitutes a ragazzo/a is extremely broad.

To illustrate: when movers started carrying boxes into the empty apartment next to mine, I was informed that my new neighbour was “un ragazzo”. Upon meeting him, I discovered that he was over 50. With grey hair. And yet, because he’s unmarried and lives alone, in Rome (by the standards of my building at least) he’s considered a lad.

Ragazzo/a/i/e can be a casual way to refer to people of (almost) any age, even when you’re not talking directly to them.

È venuto il ragazzo di Napoli.
The guy from Naples came.

Lei vive con due ragazzi.
She lives with two guys.


‘Girls in Beverly Hills’, better known in English as Clueless.

That said, ragazzi still implies a certain youth – and above all, familiarity – so it’s advisable to choose another term when you’re speaking to people to whom you need to show respect, such as bosses or new in-laws. Basically, if they’re part of your gang, they’re ragazzi; if not, best call them something else.

And there’s one more reason to be careful: if you call someone your ragazzo, you’ve just implied that you’re romantically involved.

La mia ragazza mi ha lasciato.
My girlfriend left me.


‘Her boyfriend calls her fat and she decides to change her life. Here’s how’ (headline on clicknotizie.it) – hint, it involves a diet.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Quanto meno’

At least give this Italian word a try.

Italian word of the day: 'Quanto meno'

Here’s a useful adverb to have on hand when practicing your conversational Italian: quanto meno.

It can be used in a couple of different ways, but most commonly means ‘at least’.

We’re calling this a word rather than an expression because although ‘quanto meno’ is slightly more common in contemporary Italian, it can equally be written as ‘quantomeno’.

In many contexts, quanto meno and almeno are effectively synonyms. The only difference is that almeno simply means ‘at least’, while quanto meno sometimes implies a more emphatic ‘at the very least’ or ‘as a minimum’.

Mi potevi almeno accompagnare alla stazione.
You could have at least accompanied me to the station.

Se avessi saputo prima avrei potuto quanto meno darvi una mano.
If I had known earlier I would have at least been able to give you a hand.

Il traffico sulla strada per Como è stato tremendo.
Quanto meno avete avuto bel tempo.

The traffic on the way to Como was terrible.
– At least you had good weather.

At Least You Tried Trash GIF - At Least You Tried Trash Bart Simpson GIFs

In other situations, however, quanto meno takes on a different meaning, becoming ‘to say the least’:

I suoi piani sono quanto meno avventurosi.
Her plans are adventurous to say the least.

I risultati sono preoccupanti, quanto meno.
The results are disturbing, to say the least.

There’s a third word that’s another synonym for ‘at least’: perlomeno. You’ll sometimes see it separated out into three words: per lo meno. Again, it can often be used more or less interchangeably with almeno.

Vorrei prendere perlomeno una settimana di vacanza quest’estate.
I want to take at least one week off this summer.

Perlomeno and quanto meno can also both mean something like ‘at any rate’.

Non verrebbe mai a trovarmi a casa, perlomeno.
She would never come to visit me at home, in any event.

Sei molto più in forma di me, quanto meno.
You’re in much better shape than me, at any rate.

None of these are to be confused with the quite different tanto meno, which means ‘much less’:

Non ho mai incontrato Laura, tanto meno sua sorella.
I’ve never met Laura, much less her sister.

Può a mala pena dirlo, tanto meno farlo.
He can barely say it, much less do it.

Got all that? Now see if you can fit quanto menoperlomeno and almeno into at least one conversation this week.

See our complete Word of the Day archive here. Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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