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Italian word of the day: 'Curiosare'

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Curiosare'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Here's a look at an Italian word you might be curious to learn about.

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Curiosare is a word with no direct English translation, and which can be used in a few different contexts.

As you can probably guess, it's related to the English word 'curious'.

It's a verb which roughly means 'to look around'. This can have positive or negative connotations, depending on whether you're describing someone's diligent research or busybody nature.

You can curiosare in a shop, in a book, in which case it means something like 'to browse'. But to curiosare is something more than absent-minded wandering, although there's often not a specific purpose to it.

Curiosare tra le pagine di un vecchio libro
To browse through the pages of an old book

Curiosare nelle vie della città
To wander through the streets of the city

Curiosare nelle vetrine dei negozi
To look at shop windows

Curiosare in un archivio
To look through an archive

You can also curiosare into other people's business, in which case it could be translated as 'snooping'.

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But it's not always malicious or with any negative connotation; you might simply be interested to learn about your favourite actor's previous films, or your new acquaintance's Instagram.The only criteria for curiosare is that you're doing the research/snooping/browsing in order to satisfy your own curiosity, rather than out of necessity or obligation.

Curiosare nella vita privata di qualcuno
To snoop into someone's private life

Non per curiosare, ma...
I don't mean to pry, but...

Its roots can be found in the Latin word cura meaning 'concern' or 'care', which exists in today's Italian with the same meaning.

In Latin, curiosus had several different meanings, including 'curious' but also 'meddlesome/inquisitive', 'someone who snoops/an informer', 'careful', and 'complicated'.

In Italian, the adjective curioso came to mean 'curious/inquisitive' just like the English adjective 'curious'.

Italian also developed the noun curioso, which means both 'someone who is (excessively) curious/nosy' and 'a curious/peculiar thing'. And that's how we got the beautiful verb curiosare, to describe people doing something out of curiosity.

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