For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Piuttosto’

We'd rather you remember this elegant word.

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

“Ready to learn some new vocabulary? Rather!” 

… is what no one says, ever. Today’s word is one whose closest English translation sounds more than a little dated, but that remains current in everyday Italian: piuttosto (click here for the pronunciation).

It means ‘rather’ in exactly the same two senses that the English word has: both ‘quite’ or ‘a bit’…

Sono piuttosto stanco.
I’m rather tired (or: I’m a bit tired).

… and ‘preferably’.

Prenderei piuttosto un vino rosso.
I’d rather have red wine (or: I’d prefer to have red wine).

Side note for those with an interest in etymology: the word comes from piu (more) and tosto (quickly, promptly) – think of the way we might say ‘I’d sooner…’ to express a preference.

Piuttosto la morte che chiedere scusa!
I’d sooner die than ask forgiveness!

Even when it’s not necessarily a question of which one you like more, you can use piuttosto che… to make a comparison between two options, in just the same way we would say ‘rather than…’ 

Conviene prendere l’aereo piuttosto che il treno.
It’s easier to fly rather than take the train.

In questa regione piove piuttosto in autunno che in primavera.
In this region it rains in autumn rather than in spring.

But if ‘rather’ sounds a bit dated, try to think of piuttosto as ‘instead’.

Non stare lì senza far niente: vieni qui ad aiutarmi, piuttosto!
Don’t just stand there doing nothing: come here and help me instead!

Parliamo sempre di lavoro. Piuttosto, perché non facciamo qualche progetto per il weekend?
We’re always talking about work. Why don’t we make some plans for the weekend instead?

The dictionary notes, with some irritation, that lately Italians have taken to using piuttosto to mean simply ‘or’, with no comparison implied (for example, some people might say “Conviene prendere l’aereo, piuttosto il treno” in the sense: ‘It’s easy to fly or take the train’).

We’re not going to get dogmatic about whether you should use piuttosto that way. But honestly? We’d rather you didn’t. 

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

For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

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