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Italian word of the day: ‘Attimo’

Italian word of the day: 'Attimo'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
It'll only take a moment to memorise this helpful term.

Consider attimo a companion word to aspetta (‘wait’): it means ‘moment’ and you’ll very often hear the two together.

Aspetta un attimo!
Wait a moment!

In fact, so closely associated are the two that you don’t even need to include the instruction to wait at all: just ask for ‘one moment’ and people will understand you want them to hold on.

Un attimo, per favore.
Just a moment, please.

That’s not to say that attimo and waiting have to go together. Just like in English, the word simply refers to a very short period of time, like ‘instant’ or ‘second’, and there are all sorts of things you might do with it besides wait.

Torno tra un attimo.
I’ll be back in a sec.

Mi ascolti un attimo?
Will you listen to me for just one second?

Sarebbe bastato un attimo di distrazione per provocare un disastro.
One instant of distraction is all it would have taken to cause a disaster.

Attimo comes from the Ancient Greek word atomus, which gave us the English word ‘atom’: it means the smallest possible division, something so minute it can’t be cut up any further.

Something so small is over quickly, which is why you also use attimo to talk about something fleeting and easily missed.

Cogli l’attimo!
Seize the moment!

Troppo tardi, abbiamo perso l’attimo.
Too late, we missed our chance (or: our moment).

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