Italian word of the day: ‘Spaventoso’

Allow us to introduce you to a frightfully useful term.

Italian word of the day: 'Spaventoso'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Today’s word is nothing to be afraid of, despite its meaning: spaventoso, ‘frightening’, ‘alarming’ or ‘terrifying’.

Giulio soffre di incubi spaventosi.
Giulio suffers from terrifying nightmares.

L’Artico sta scomparendo a una velocità spaventosa.
The Arctic is disappearing at an alarming rate.

It comes from the verb spaventare, ‘to frighten’ or ‘to scare’. 

La sola idea di sposarsi la spaventa.
Just the idea of getting married scares her.

The adjective can apply to something truly frightening, like a nightmare or global warming, or to something that’s not so much scary as really, really bad.

It’s much like we use the words ‘dreadful’ or ‘terrible’ in English (think about it: they originally meant ‘causing dread or terror’ – in other words, ‘frightening’).

Si è macchiata di un delitto spaventoso.
She was guilty of a dreadful crime.

Un spaventoso incidente d’auto è avvenuto questa sera.
There was a terrible car accident this evening.

But the same way you can say something is ‘terribly good’ or ‘frightfully nice’ in (British) English when you really just mean ‘very’, you can use spaventoso to emphasise the scale or intensity of something – regardless if it’s bad or good.

In this case, it becomes more like ‘incredible’, ‘astonishing’ or ‘tremendous’.

Al gioco ha una fortuna spaventosa.
She has tremendous luck at gambling.

Quel ragazzo è di una stupidità spaventosa.
That boy is incredibly stupid.

È ricca in modo spaventoso.
She’s astonishingly rich.

See? It’s not so scary after all. 

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: ‘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.