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Italian word of the day: 'Aspetta'

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Aspetta'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Hold on a minute. Aren't you using this word yet?


As far as the most commonly-used Italian words go, aspetta must be up near the top of the list.

You might not realise this if you're studying Italian outside of the country. But once you arrive, there's no doubt you'll start hearing 'aspetta!' everywhere you go. This was true in my case, and the meaning was perfectly clear: "wait!"

Aspetta is an interjection, or the imperative form of the verb aspettare (to wait). This form is exactly what you’d use in place of phrasal verbs like 'hang on' or 'hold up' in English.

- Aspetta, penso che abbiamo dimenticato qualcosa

- Hold on, I think we’ve forgotten something 

- Aspetta, non ho finito

- Wait up, I haven’t finished

- Aspetta un attimo, a chi si sta riferendo in questo punto?

- Wait a moment, who are we talking about here?

It's often just used alone as an exclamation.

And you'll almost definitely hear Italians shortening it to aspè.

- Aspè, quel semaforo era rosso?

- Wait, was that traffic light red?


You can also hear aspetta used simply as the third-person singular form of the verb aspettare.

- Giorgio aspetta l’autobus tutti giorni per andare a lavaro

- Giorgio waits for the bus to work every day

If you want to talk about waiting you could also use the verb attendere, which is slightly more formal.

It’s also where this comes from:

-sala d'attesa

- Waiting room

And you might hear people say attenda instead of aspetta. Again, same thing but slightly more formal.

- Attenda il suo turno dietro la linea gialla, per favore

- Wait your turn behind the yellow line, please


After a job interview you could hear:

- Attenda che le faremo sapere

- We’ll let you know (literally: wait for us to let you know.)

And finally, an Italian saying:

- Chi la fa l’aspetti

- Literally “Who does it waits for it”, meaning that a person who does bad things can expect bad things in return.

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