You might know that incubo is the Italian word for a bad dream, or nightmare.
– stanotte ho avuto un incubo
– I had a nightmare last night
Un incubo notturno literally translates as something more like a “night terror” or “night fear”; one Italian dictionary defines un incubo as a “dream that causes a state of anguished oppression.”
This word sounds so much more sinister than a plain old english “nightmare”, probably because it derives from the Latin incubo: “nightmare, one who lies down on (the sleeper),” and is a relative of incubus, the name of a legendary evil spirit once thought to crush sleepers, triggering terrible nightmares.
In waking hours too, un incubo is today “a reason for assiduous, intolerable worry or distress, often prolonged over time.”
That's why l'incubo can also be used to mean a horror or fear – and not necessarily of evil spirits or things that go bump in the night.
– Ha l’incubo di ingrassare.
– She has a great fear of getting fat.
– ho l'incubo degli esami
– exams are a nightmare for me
As you can see, in this case, you need to use the verb avere + l'incubo to express that you “have” a fear or horror of the thing in question.
It's also used in the same figurative ways we'd use “nightmare” in English.
If you want to say that someone is difficult, or a pain in the neck, you could use this phrase:
– Quell’uomo è un incubo!
– That man is a nightmare!
We can use it to talk about nightmarish situations, too:
– Sto vivendo un incubo!
– I'm having an awful day! (This rather dramatic Italian phrase literally translates as “I'm living a nightmare!”)
If studying Italian ever feels like a nightmare, we hope these daily lessons will help.
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