Italian word of the day: ‘Primavera’

Spring has sprung here in Italy and we've got a few phrases to help you talk about it.

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

Some people are surprised by just how cold winter can get in Italy, so it’s always a relief when the spring sunshine arrives.

And today’s word, primavera, means spring  – as well as being the name of Botticelli’s famous Renaissance painting.

Click below to hear primavera pronounced:

It comes from the Latin primus (‘first’) and ver (‘spring’), which means the word originally meant something like ‘in the early springtime’.

Here are a few examples of how you can use this noun in a sentence.

La primavera è la mia stagione preferita.
Spring is my favourite season.

È stato il primo giorno di primavera.
It was the first day of spring.

La primavera è finalmente arrivata.
Spring has finally arrived

Le mie allergie si infiamma ogni primavera.
My allergies flare up every spring.

You might see the word used in other contexts to mean the ‘beginning’ of something.

la primavera di una civiltà
the beginning of a civilization

Una primavera is also the word for ‘a primrose’, the pretty yellow or pink flower you’ll see appear at this time of year.

The flower also happens to be the symbol of Italy’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, and new beginnings post-pandemic – making primavera a more timely word than ever.

Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

See our complete Word of the Day archive here.

Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us 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.

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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.