Today’s word is deceptively simple: tipo. Yes, it means what it sounds like – ‘type’ – but also quite a bit more.
Let’s start with the obvious meaning.
Che tipo di casa cercate?
What type of house are you looking for?
Tipo refers to the ‘sort’ or ‘kind’ something belongs to.
Nei nostri magazzini abbiamo merce di ogni tipo.
Our shops have all sorts of products.
A me piacciono le scarpe di tipo sportivo.
I like sporty kinds of shoes.
And just like in English, you can say that a person is or isn’t your ‘type’ – i.e., the kind of person you’re interested in.
(Non) è il mio tipo.
He’s (not) my type.
But here’s where tipo gets more interesting than its English homonym. It can also mean ‘guy’ or ‘girl’, a generic term for anyone you wouldn’t necessarily refer to by name.
Ha chiamato il tipo di ieri.
The guy from yesterday called.
Chi è quella tipa che ti sta guardando?
Who’s that girl who’s looking at you?
Depending on the context, un tipo can also be ‘a character’, someone remarkable or perhaps a bit odd.
Sei proprio un bel tipo!
You’re quite the character!
Most ubiquitous of all, in casual speech tipo has come to mean ‘like’: both in the sense of ‘such as’…
Dovresti provare un rimedio naturale, tipo Io zenzero.
You should try a natural remedy, like ginger.
… and as a word that indicates something’s approximate or not quite certain.
C’erano, tipo, venti persone.
There were, like, 20 people.
L’aperitivo comincia tra tipo trenta minuti.
The aperitivo starts in like, thirty minutes.
Just be warned: just like ‘like’, saying tipo is a little bit addictive.
Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.