Italian word of the day: ‘Allora’

This word is our most requested yet. Well then, let's take a look at it...

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

More people have asked us to feature allora than any other word so far. Probably because you've heard it in just about every other sentence uttered by Italians.

What is this word they turn to so often? It must mean something really important, right? Well, at the risk of disappointing you, allora means, quite simply, 'then'.

But of course, no word is quite as simple as it seems. Think about all the multitude of meanings 'then' can have in English: allora works the same way.

Firstly there's the 'then' that indicates 'at a certain point in time'.

Allora abitava ancora a Londra.
Back then she was still living in London.

Allora ha squillato il telefono.
At that moment the phone rang.

Da allora non ho fumato più.
I haven't smoked since then.

l'allora presidente
the then president (the president at that time)

The time you're referring to can be in the past or the future, so as well as 'back then' allora can also imply 'after that' or 'next'.

Quando vedrai, allora capirai.
When you see, then you'll understand.

Then (!) there's the 'then' that means 'so', 'in that case'.

Se vuoi venire, allora preparati.
If you want to come, then get ready.

Fa freddo, allora mettiti una maglia.
It's cold, so put on a sweater.

Il film era noioso e allora siamo usciti.
The film was boring and so we left.

Not forgetting the 'then' that's just a useful linking word, to help you introduce an idea, connect back to another, or simply launch your sentence.

Allora, cosa facciamo stasera?
Well then, what are we doing tonight?

Allora ci vediamo!
See you soon then!

Allora, cominciamo la lezione…
Right then, let's start the lesson…

You can even use it as a question all on its own, to signal to the other person that you want to hear more.

Allora? Com'è andata?
So? How did it go?

E allora?
Well then/What now/So what?

That's why allora can be tricky to pin down: because if you ask an Italian speaker why they said it, half the time the answer would be: “I don't know, I just did!” File it along with those other handy words such as quindi, insomma and cioè that you can reach for while you're still thinking about the rest of your sentence.

That's what US comedian Aziz Ansari's character discovers when he moves to Italy in the series Master of None: we can't recommend his pronunciation (make sure your tongue touches the top of your mouth for those two lovely Ls!), but we do give him full marks for enthusiasm.

Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

Member comments

  1. When I first moved here I heard the word so often I decided to name my cat, Allora. My friends here think it’s a bit weird but they often ask how he is.

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Italian word of the day: ‘Inciucio’

Here's a word you'll need to deal with ahead of Italy's elections.

Italian word of the day: 'Inciucio'

With two days to go until Sunday’s general election, there’s talk of a potential ’inciucio’ everywhere from the pages of newspapers to the heated conversations at sports bars up and down the country.

So what is an ‘inciucio’ and why does the word seem to be on everyone’s lips whenever Italy faces elections?

Briefly, ‘inciucio’ is political jargon that describes any type of dubious agreement or, if you will, compromise reached by two or more political parties generally holding opposite views and ideals.

There’s no direct translation into English, though a native speaker would probably refer to it as something of a dodgy backroom deal.

Non c’è una maggioranza chiara. 

Eh, figurati. Faranno il solito inciucio.

There isn’t a clear-cut majority.

Oh, that’s not new. They’ll go for the usual deal.

Such an agreement is usually necessary when forming a large coalition government, with terms largely assumed to be based on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

With that definition in mind, it’s hard not to see why ‘inciucio’ is such a commonly-used word in Italy, a country whose political class has historically been partial to improbable alliances with their previously hated rivals. 

Cosa pensi delle prossime elezioni?

Preferisco non pensare. Ne ho avuto abbastanza di questi inciuci. 

What do you think of the next elections?

I’d rather not think. I’ve had enough of these political deals.

Purtroppo, con questa legge elettorale, l’inciucio tra partiti è l’unica via per avere un governo…

Fammi un piacere. Gli inciuci esistevano anche 60 anni fa, molto prima di questa legge elettorale.

Sadly, with the current electoral system, a compromise between different parties is the only way to form a new government.

Do me a favour. These types of agreements existed 60 years ago, well before the present electoral system.

While the noble art of the inciucio goes back a long way in the history of republican Italy, the term itself was only coined in 1995 by Massimo D’Alema, then secretary of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD). 

The expression only rose to popularity a couple of years later, when the founder of the term thought it fit to put the word to good use and reached a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the then-leaders of Italy’s right-wing coalition – the agreement went down in history as the patto della crostata or ‘pie pact’ – but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Ever since then, the term ‘inciucio’ has been regularly used by political commentators as well as the wider public to discuss the various power plays of the country’s major political forces.

For instance, the most classic of inciuci was at the foundation of Giuseppe Conte’s first cabinet back in 2018, when Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five-Star Movement unexpectedly found sufficient common ground to form a coalition government.

So, will we see another inciucio this time around?

Given the unpredictable nature of Italian politics, you’ll forgive us for not ruling out the possibility of another inciucio just yet.