Italian word of the day: ‘Riso’

Italian word of the day: 'Riso'
What's so funny about rice, anyway?

Trying to learn another language can be very confusing at times. Words with double meanings don't help, and Italian is full of them.

Riso is the kind of word we barely need to translate. You probably know that it's the word for rice – as in risotto, of course.

But you might get confused if you you ask an Italian person:

– Avete riso?

Because riso is also the past participle of the verb ridere (to laugh), and the word is pronounced the same way (reeh-zo), the question means both “Do you have any rice?” and “Did you laugh?”

The person you're asking might respond:

-Sì, abbiamo riso tantissimo!

Does this mean that they have loads of rice? Nope, it means “yes, we laughed a lot!” – but it's easy to see how an Italian learner might think they have a cupboard packed full of arborio.

Obviously it's all in the context and usually it's not too hard to figure out which riso is being talked about.

– Ci sono circa cinquanta tipi di riso nel supermercato

– There are about fifty kinds of rice in the supermarket

– È davvero divertente, non avevo mai riso così tanto! 

– It’s really funny, I’ve never laughed like this before!

– Non farmi ridere

– Don’t make me laugh

In Italian jokes, sayings and proverbs, it could be taken to mean either.

– Il riso abbonda sulla bocca degli stolti

– Rice/laughter abounds on the lips of fools

There are lots of words like this to watch out for in Italian. Just laugh off any mistakes and keep trying!

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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