Italian word of the day: ‘Subito’

You'll want to start making use of this word right away.

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

One word you'll hear inserted into Italian conversation often is subito.

Although I'd never heard this little word before I arrived in Italy, it seemed pretty obvious that it meant “soon” or “now”.

– torno subito

– I'll be back soon

– Vieni subito qui!

– Come here right now!

– Lo faccio subito

– I'll do it straight away

– Ha accettato subito

– He accepted immediately

I hear it most often in cafes:

– lo porterò subito

– I'll bring it right away

But as soon as I started dropping subito into my own Italian sentences I realised that, of course, using it wasn't always so simple.

Subito comes from the Latin adjective subitus, meaning sudden or unexpected. As it has evolved into modern Italian, the word has gained a few shades of meaning depending on context.

For example, it could be used like this:

– Parto subito prima di mezzanote

– I leave just before midnight

We might be used to translating the word “quickly” as velocemente or presto. But there are some examples in which it can translate as subito

– una pittura che asciuga subito

– a paint which dries quickly

– è subito fatto

– It's quickly done.

While it might take longer than we'd all like to become fluent in Italian, using this word properly will make you sound more proficient – subito!

Do you have an Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.


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Italian word of the day: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.