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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Ecco’

Here we have a very versatile word that you'll hear all the time in Italy.

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

Ecco is another of those Italian words that just don't quite translate into English.

Roughly, it means “here” or “there”.

In English we pepper our speech with little phrases like “here we go” “here you are” and “there you have it”, and Italians do the same.

– Eccoci, finalmente siamo arrivati

– Here we are, we've finally arrived!

READ ALSO: The top ten Italian words that just don't translate into English

But of course, it's not really that simple. Even in Italian, ecco is in a category all of its own. Literally.

Avverbi presentativi, or presentation adverbs, is the name of a type of adverb in Italian used to present, indicate, show, or announce something. The one and only adverb of this type still used in modern-day Italian is ecco.

You can find it used alone, but often  it's attached to a pronoun: mi, ti, ci, vi, lo, la, li, le, ne

– Eccovi qui, cari amici!

– there you are, dear friends!

Eccoli qua!

– here you have them!

These ecco phrases are often used to announce the arrival or appearance of someone or something, particularly if it's long-awaited.

– ecco il treno

– here's the train

 

It has more subtle meanings too. For example, this dictionary says it can “lend a nuance of irony to a situation.”

But most often I hear it used as an exclamation, to express satisfaction or surprise.

In that case, it translates to something like “look at that” or maybe even “behold!”

– Ecco! Ho dimenticato di nuovo le chiavi!

– Look at that. I forgot the keys again!

 

A bit like quindi or allora, it can also be used when you're not sure what else to say.

– Ecco…allora

– Look… well then

An ecco can also be deployed halfway through a sentence when you want to correct or change what you were saying.

– mi è sembrato… ecco… ho saputo che…

– I felt… no… I knew that…

You can use it to start or end a discussion or explanation

– Ecco, le cose sono andate così

– Here, things went like this

– ecco tutto

– that's all

And ecco fatto (that’s it) means something is finished.

– Ecco fatto l'articolo!

– That's the article finished!

Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression 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: ‘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.