Italian word of the day: ‘Trucco’

Don't be fooled: make sure you know all the meanings of this descriptive Italian word.

The first time I encountered trucco was when my Italian sister-in-law was helping to plan my wedding. It was top of her list of priorities.

Dobbiamo trovare qualcuno per fare il trucco

– We need to find someone to do your makeup

I didn't understand why this was deemed so necessary (I'd loudly protested that I can put my own mascara on, thank you) until the morning of the wedding, when that makeup artist magically made me look like I'd had more than four hours' sleep the night before.

– aveva un trucco pesante

– she was wearing heavy make-up

And in Italian, trucco is not just makeup. it's also a kind of effect or illusion. You could even say it was a trick, if you wanted to be mean.

And the word is used in all sorts of other, non-cosmetic situations

– i trucchi cinematografici erano impressionanti

– the cinematic effects were impressive

– ti mostro un trucco che riesce sempre 

– I'll show you a trick that always works

– i trucchi del mestiere 

– the tricks of the trade

Depending on the context, it can also be used to describe real deviousness or trickery:

– battere l’avversario con un trucco

– to beat the adversary with a ploy

– Era tutto solo un trucco

– It was all just a gimmick

And apparently, trucco is also the name of a game of lawn billiards popular in the 16th century. Who knew?

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

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

Business Guy Nbc GIF by Sunnyside

According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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