Italian word of the day: 'Squillo'

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

Today's word will help you get in touch with your Italian friends, quite literally.


How do you describe the sound your phone makes? Is it a ring, a buzz, a bell, a beep, or something else altogether?

For Italians, it's uno squillo. It comes from the verb squillare ('to ring') and it's what your phone does when someone calls you.

Lo squillo del telefono mi ha svegliato. 
The sound of the phone ringing woke me up.

By extension, fare uno squillo means 'to make a call'.

Perché non fai uno squillo a Papà?
Why don't you give Dad a call?

More specifically, lo squillo is the practice of giving someone a missed call: ringing and hanging up before you get an answer. It's less common in these days of WhatsApp, FaceTime and unlimited data, but for a while there it was the method of choice for young Italians with limited phone credit to let others know they were on their way, waiting downstairs, or simply thinking of them.

Fammi uno squillo quando arrivi a casa!
Buzz me when you get home!


But here's where you want to be extremely careful with your articles. While uno or lo squillo (masculine) refers to phones, una or la squillo (feminine) is shorthand for una ragazza squillo, or 'call girl' – and that's really not something you should be offering to give anyone else.

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


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