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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Pronto’

Get ready to learn a little more about this familiar term.

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

Languages are constantly borrowing words from other tongues, but we tend to pick and choose what we want them to mean.

Take pronto: we say it in English to mean ‘quickly’, which isn’t wrong, exactly, but neither is it the whole story.

Here’s how to pronounce it:

In Italian pronto can indeed mean ‘quick’, ‘speedy’ or ‘prompt’.

Le ho augurato una pronta guarigione.
I wished her a speedy recovery.

Ha i riflessi pronti.
She has quick reflexes.

La pronta consegna è garantita.
Prompt delivery is guaranteed.

But more often it means ‘ready’, both in the sense of ‘prepared’…

È pronto il pranzo?
Is lunch ready? 

Non sono pronto per l’esame di domani.
I’m not ready for tomorrow’s test.

… and in the sense of ‘willing’.

Sono pronta a tutto per aiutarlo.
I’m ready to do anything to help him.

È sempre pronto al perdono.
He’s always willing to forgive.

It comes from the Latin verb promo, ‘to take forth’. Something ‘taken forth’ is promptu – ‘in sight’, ‘at hand’, or simply ‘ready’.

That’s why, if you’re getting ready for a race in Italy, you’ll hear whoever’s got the starting gun call out: “Pronti… via!” It’s the equivalent of ‘Ready, set, go’. 

And that’s also why you’ll hear it almost every time you pick up the phone. Italians typically answer a call by saying: “Ready?”

Pronto? Chi parla?
Hello? Who’s speaking?

But where you won’t hear it is when you’re talking about something urgent – something that needs to be done, pronto. When you want to translate an English pronto into Italian, it’s more natural to use the word subito (‘right away’) instead.

Lo faccio subito.
I’ll do it pronto.

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 WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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